Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

James Webb: True Democrat

I think it is an interesting fact that James Webb now finds his home in the Democratic Party. No crazed liberal, for sure, people are remarking on his conservative leanings and how they may serve to irritate the liberal core of the Democratic leadership in Congress. I look forward to seeing that. On the other hand, there are apparently good reasons for Webb’s distancing himself from the Republican party in recent years and finding his way home to the Democrats. And they have to do with fundamentals and foundations stretching back to the origins of the GOP and the traditions of the pre-1960s Democrats. They have to do with fundamentals that Republicans would do well to think long and hard about before 2008. What is it that makes a James Webb want to be a Democrat and a Michael Steele want to be a Republican?

Matt Peterson over at The Remedy brings our attention to some recent comments Webb made about what I suppose Webb would call "The War Between the States" and the motivations for it. Good Republicans in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln cannot support these views. We may make common cause with Un-Reconstructed Southern partisans in fighting some of the excesses of post 1960s liberalism, but when it comes down to fundamental questions like the origins of sovereignty and natural rights--we must part company. He is right to be a Democrat. It is his natural home.

Discussions - 98 Comments

I don’t think Webb is endorsing racism, Julie. And...I think you need to look at the electoral map. The GOP is a Southern party at this point...the real house-cleaning came in the other regions of the country (particularly the Midwest). All you Straussians in the Midwest and Left Lincolnesque, so politically correct. And you are going to be such losers if you insist on insulting Southerners. Perhaps they were mistaken to fight for independence (and slavery), but they were (and are) a brave people with a rich heritage.

I agree with you that there is no good to come from insulting Southerners--and I as I wrote this post I tried very hard not to do it. I don’t wish to do it and further, I mean no insult to James Webb. I just wish for clarity in an honest disagreement. I doubt very much that James Webb or the vast majority of good Southerners are racists. But our disagreement is not about racism. It’s about a mistaken theory of government that once upon a time supported racism and today would support a myriad of other equally bad ideas. When you’re not grounded in a solid idea of government deriving its just and limited powers from the consent of the governed because of the inalienable rights of equal men before God, you are susceptible to all kinds of bad ideas. Government, in that universe, can just as easily support racism as it can support redistribution of wealth or affirmative action or whatever other fancy of the human mind become fashionable. At some point these things will have to become clear and there will be costs--perhaps to our numbers of supporters--to pay. You’re right to point out the danger there and I agree with you that I’d rather not pay it now. But clarity is still important. And it is important to remember that there are gains to be made with that clarity too. For example, a Democratic party full of James Webbs would be a vast improvement to a Democratic party full of Nancy Pelosis. Further, a Republican party that was consistent with it’s origins in a Lincolnian understanding of the Constitution and natural rights would be vastly more attractive to well-intentioned but misguided folks now voting Democrat because they mistakenly believe the Republican party to be racist.

When you’re not grounded in a solid idea of government deriving its just and limited powers from the consent of the governed because of the inalienable rights of equal men before God, you are susceptible to all kinds of bad ideas.

Well, this is precisely what Lincoln and the Republican Party prevented by resorting to violence...the right of free men to select their own government. And Southerners really did want their own government...that’s demonstrable.

Of course, perhaps you meant that since the Confederacy didn’t recognize blacks as "free men" then it wasn’t a legitimate government. By that standard, neither was the Union...women were excluded from voting.

Dain, you make my head hurt. Start here. Comparing votes for women with black slavery is in no way legitimate.

The Confederacy, according to Alexander Stevens, wanted a government that did not recognize "the self-evident lie" that all men are created equal. If you think that’s a lie then there is no basis for consent. It’s just will to power or preference. And secession was illegitimate on the basis of consent. To withdraw from the Union the South would have had to have the consent of the Whole Union . . . not just their part of it. But this is all way too complicated to explain here in a blog.

Julie - Let us remember that Ronald Reagan’s understanding of sovereignty and federalism were as shaky as Webb’s, though without the reference to the slavery question.

I don’t think you’re right about that Steve. Explain yourself. Also, let me be clear: I don’t think Webb is referring (not directly, anyway) to the slavery question either. What say you, Steve Hayward?

You are exactly right that the GOP is the Party of Lincoln. It is the party of nationalism. It is the party that adopted the mercantilism and internal improvements of Henry Clay and the Federalism of Alexander Hamilton. The commonly accepted mistake is to believe it is now or ever has been the conservative party. As Clyde Wilson recently wrote, the GOP is and has always been the party of "state capitalism."

Neither is the "natural rights" philosophy that you are espousing conservative by any reasonable definition. Natural rights are an Enlightenment inspired concept. They inspired the LEFT in the French Revolution against the defenders of the traditional order. Natural rights have always been used to bludgeon traditional societies and the traditional social order. There is no way to rightly determine what these mythical natural rights are. Is there a natural right to gay marriage? Why not? The liberals say there is. Is there a natural right to affordable housing? Why not? The Soviet Constitution said there is. Natural rights are such an obviously liberal concept that it really doesn’t need elaboration. Our rights are a product of our society, culture, history, religion etc. They arise from that society and can not be separated from it. Untold horror has been done in the name of securing natural rights always at the expense of the traditional society.

So what is the authentic strain of American conservatism? Is it the decentralization espoused by Jefferson, Henry, Calhoun, et al. or the centralism of Hamilton, Clay, and Lincoln. Hamilton was trying a few years before its time to usher in a French Revolution style unitary modern state. What he largely failed to do (Thank God), Lincoln managed to do later at the cost of 600,000+ lives of both countries best and brightest. Lincoln destroyed the original Constitutional Republic and replaced it with a French Revolution style unitary "indivisible" modern state. Spare me the slavery issue. Lincoln is so on the record that he went to war to "save" his mythical conception of the Union that it is not really debatable. Bringing up slavery when discussing the historic right of the States to secede is an attempt to divert and thought stop.

If people want to be post French Revolution style believers in the modern state set up to ensure "natural rights" then be my guest, but please don’t try to pass it off as conservative. You obviously would have been setting on the LEFT side of the French Parliament trying to ensure that good ol’ "liberty, equality, and fraternity" against the evil Church and Crown.

Julie - For starters. . .

Ronald Reagan (First Inaugural Address): The Federal government did not create the states; the states created the Federal government.

Abraham Lincoln he was not.

Lincoln regularly called himself a conservative. Is this Humpty-Dumpty stuff?

Actually, I consider myself a Hamiltonian...I do think the government needs to offer some minimal protection to our economy. I don’t necessarily disagree with Lincoln on that score, nor to I think you have to sign off on "free trade" to believe in the right of secession. In short, I’m a modern American...lots of water under the bridge since 1865.

Nonetheless, this PC notion that we have to dishonor the sacrifices of Southerners because they were defending slavery (an old-fashion institution that was a contemporary of patriarchical institutions that insisted on female subjugated by men), is foolish and mean-spirited. The Confederate Cause may or may not have been wise and fitting, but certainly there was a timelessness to the bravery and independence of these people.

And, I had ancestors on both sides of that damned war...this isn’t partisanship. Dishonoring them (or even ’correcting’ them) isn’t necessary or even wise.

Steve, I don’t get the reference to Humpty Dumpty.

Here is something I wrote about Allen and Webb. It is relevant here. It is part of my column on "Lessons Learned" from the election. It will likely be coming out Monday.

"I say good riddance to the liberal Yankee RINOs. The GOP caucus, while smaller, is now more homogenously conservative. Notice the regional divide is growing greater. New England is getting more liberal and the South remains conservative by comparison. Secession anyone?... Once it becomes evident that the GOP can no longer compete nationally (around 2050 or sooner if current trends continue), (due to the demographic colapse brought about by mass immigration) maybe even the Lincoln-worshiping nationalists in the Party of Lincoln will realize the wisdom of that old remedy secession...From a conservative stand point, no man ever deserved to lose more than George Allen. His Macaca comment was bone-headed in the extreme, but as is always the case when someone has seemingly transgressed politically correct right-think, the craven, PC boot-licking apology was far worse than the original offence. George Allen obviously studied at the Trent Lott school of shameless, emasculating PC butt-kissing. Probably with his eye on the 2008 Presidential race instead of his Senate campaign, Allen joined the very liberal NAACP and repudiated his past support of the Confederate battle flag. The Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans quickly called a news conference and asked Virginia’s Southern patriots not to support George Allen due to his ungrateful and treacherous act. They could do this in better conscious than normal since James Webb wrote an excellent book on the Celtic heritage of the South and has friendlier things to say about the South than is usual for scalawag Democrats. (Webb is not without taint himself. He did his share of sucking up to the Democrat establishment so he could get the nomination. Let’s hope the Webb who wrote the book and served under Reagan is the guy who shows up in the Senate, not the candidate who pandered to the left to get the nomination.) emphasis added.

I meant that maybe we’re just talking about words: semantics. Hence, from Lewis Carroll:

’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ’whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ’which is to be master - that’s all.’

Just exactly how did Ponzi insult Southerners?

Lincoln was far from being politically correct, by the way.

Oh, I don’t know Dale...perhaps the fact that she thinks that "unreconstructed Southerners" belong with the crazy Democrats. Or perhaps that her link tars Webb with the taint of racism. As I mentioned in a thread some time ago, Julie has this "church lady" condescension in some of her tends to irritate whomever she has targeted. This time, it irritated me.

This whole discussion is a sideshow. The real question isn’t Webb’s position on a historically moot dispute, or on Confederate symbolism, but what he thinks about current issues. If Webb ends up being one of a tiny handful of moderate Democrats in the Senate, we should acknowledge this. While it’s unlikely, it would be nice to see another Zell Miller emerge. (Where was Zell, though, in Campaign ’06?)

Dain, I have to agree with you there.
Of course, I usually agree with you anyway.

A question for all of you is this: what exactly do you wish to conserve by being a Conservative? An American Conservative is, or ought to be, quite different from, say, a Conservative in 18th Century Britain. America was founded in Revolution and upon revolutionary principles. Conserving those is hardly church lady-ish.

I don’t know, Julie...what is it you want to conserve? The right of a central government to beat up citizens who have decided to go their own way? The right of the central government to force people to recognize universal standards, even if those standards offend? I’m not sure I follow your line of thinking...and I’m not the only one who notices the "church lady" quality of your posts. I’m just very sue me.

Julie - What happened to our discussion of Reagan on federalism? This is interesting only because it shows that the parties are seldom consistent on theoretical matters, contrary to what Steve Hayward asserts.

Appreciating Southern tradition and the valor and even the patriotism--as they saw it--of Confederates is one thing. But Webb says Stephens made a "convincing case" for secession. Excuse me, but every single one of those states freely adopted a constitution that begins "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..." Half of his party wants Hawaiian Independence under a Race-Based Government...because there’s just something about Democrats and secession & One-Drop Rules. The other half of his party wants the United States to secede from the United States and become a UN protectorate.
While we’re over here trying to get back to the Constitution, Webb sounds like a Buchananite crank trying to return to the Articles of Confederation.

I liked the Jim Webb who was going to explain why China was a bigger threat than Islamism and the guy who wouldn’t shake John Kerry’s hand for 20 years. Instead, we got "When did you stop beating your Jewish mother?" and Kerry slobbering all over him. Good luck getting that stink off with mere dry-cleaning, Jim.

Even with all that said, Webb is still a cut cut above the Cardboard Men in his Paper-Thin Party. How sad is that?

ps: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less. ...The question is, which is to be master-- that’s all."--This quote by the great Justice Dumpty should be inscribed above the Court’s doorway.

The writings of Alexander Stephens! Holely Moley! Here’s the key bit quoted from the Cornerstone Speech at the Claremont link: "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite [from Jefferson’s]idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

Think Allen couldn’t have used this in some way because of all those Confederacy-defenders in VA? Well, I’m just a Charlottesville yankee, so I wouldn’t know, but think for a moment--what was the "cornerstone" a reference to in the Bible? It to JESUS, wasn’t it, so that Stephens not only had the cheek to declare Jefferson’s declaration rot, but the cheek to compare the confederacy to the kingdom of God, and slavery to Christ. And the confederates, it must be said, by and large applauded. With Noel, I think the line between honoring the valor and virtue of Lee, Jackson, and their soldiers, and honoring the speeches of Stephens and Calhoun ought to be a very bright one.

And that includes secession-rationales. I admit that Lincoln’s case for going to war was made much easier by the firing on Sumter, and I admit that secessionist ideas had at least some plausible rooting the American constituional tradition, even though secession wasn’t constitutional. Dain can call me a blindly Lincoln-loving Straussian all he wants, but I say go to your library, or go out and buy Basler’s edition of Lincoln’s speeches, and read his July 4th message of 1861, which rips the secessionist arguments to shreds.

My hope and assumption is that Webb actually only read a portion of Alexander Stephens (and thus didn’t follow his own advice that we all study Stephens’ arguments!)because otherwise the good liberals and moderates of the South have just elected the worst kind of confederacy apologist.

Well, Carl, I’ve read arguments for and against secession, and for my money the plain text of the Constitution trumps it all...everything not included in this document is reserved for the States, or for the People. Seems pretty clear to me. Until Lincoln, it was clearly understood that our central government was a creature of the States, and that States were sovereign in most matters, including their allegiance to the central government.

Regardless, you and your Straussian brethren will find, if you are (un)lucky enough to live so long, that high-culture philosophy is NOT what holds a country together. It’s the common folkways, the common language and culture, the common history and understanding of the world and one’s place in it, that binds people together. Like all other multicultural empires (and I’m afraid that’s the way America is heading...overly centralized government, hereditary leadership, policy by proxy), America’s search for the lowest common denominator to unite people is leaving most of us hungry for real identity. The Southerners had a real identity, but they were denied it by force...I don’t see anything very wise about that, and while justice was done (after a fashion) for black folks, it was more than offset by the permanent mutation introduced into our polity and our culture.

Until Lincoln, it was clearly understood that our central government was a creature of the States, and that States were sovereign in most matters, including their allegiance to the central government.

dain - Admittedly, there was some ambiguity, but Lincoln’s nationalism had powerful precedent in John Marshall and others. And didn’t you say you are a Hamiltonian?

Yes, to the extent that I endorse protectionism for national economies, I am a Hamiltonian. As for secession, I’m convinced it was the clear intent of the Founders to allow secession when the People where sufficiently united in desiring it. Of course there were people who came after and tried to justify a "once and for all" pact, but that just isn’t logical. Even our contract law provides provisions for dissolving such voluntary obligations.

dain - I think we have to count both Marshall and Madison among the Founders.

Your remark about the People raises the question, how are the People to register their desire for dissolution - in what Lincoln called a "revolutionary" act? (See his First Inaugural Address)?


I believe Lincoln took his ideas concerning the Union and the States from Webster, in his reply to Hayne. Read the speeches, it is all right there. Lincoln simply had the strength of will to carry it out.

Mr. Webster: "I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might he hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs in this government whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil."

"God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on states dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as "What is all this worth?" nor those other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first and Union afterwards"; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart-Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"

That’s beautiful. Really beautiful. However, as a moral troll--and former Democrat!--I prefer Col. Jackson’s formulation:

"I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find."

Come on, Steve...wouldn’t you think something as fundamental as secession would be in the Constitution. As Webster argued, the word "perpetual" is in the Articles of Confederation, but nothing like that made it into the Constitution. I wonder why? Webster was grasping at straws.

I’ve argued all this before, probably on NLT. There is not a word in the Constitution (or in any Supreme Court ruling) that forbade secession prior to 1861. Millions of Americans thought is was certainly legal, and even the notion that the Constitution itself is perpetual is nonsense (e.g., Amendments). Moreover, the idea that, since the Federal government’s process for creating States translation into the notion that States are creatures of the central government is likewise nonsense. Even if we took that seriously, it means that Lincoln ran an illegal war against Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia (who were colonies before they were States).

I simply wish Lincolnphiles and "Yankees" would admit it was a war of expediency, and that legality didn’t really play a role. As I’ve often argued, "rights" are meaningless unless you can enforce them. The South simply did not have the power to enforce its right to secede. The North won, changed the groundrules, and justified its actions in all the textbooks. End of story.

Gee I was gone for a day and missed all this fun. I don’t have time to reply at length now, but I will return. For now I will say this. Webster said disunion would leave the fields " fraternal blood." That is very rich. Had disunion not been resisted by massive force there would have been no blood. It was forced union that resulted in blood.

Discuss secession and the War for Southern Independence and even sleepy blogs light up. That is because it is really an essential principle. America will never return to a true historical understanding of the authenic American conservative strain until we get this right. As Dr. Donald Livingston has suggested, Lincoln, the War, and secession is a litmus test of authentic American conservatism.

All you Union defenders are Hobbsians whether you know it or not or are willing to admit it. And you are defenders of the modern Hobbsian state that was ushered in by the French Revolution. The old Constitutional Republic defended by the Confederacy and trampled by Lincoln was an example of the pre-modern notion of divided sovereignty.

Unionist, you must think about the origins and implications of your decidely modern and liberal conception of the nation state. If you are OK with that then fine, but you should be posting at the Unrepentant Statist blog, not a blog that claims to take "No Left Turns."

We’re off to the races, and Julie has gone missing.

I realize there is a whole world of anarcho-Jeffersonian-States’ Rights folks out there, but I’m not among them. It is possible that the initial voluntarism of the Union leads only to splintering and political non-viability...I’m very pragmatic about that. Indeed, if you look at the actually history of the Confederacy, they were slowly forced to centralize and violate the spirit of States’ Rights themselves. The major reason I side with the Confederates in this whole question is that I think they fought bravely, even heroically, and they were within their (legal) rights to leave the Union.

To be honest, sometimes I despair...maybe government of the people, by the people, and for the people is the mayfly of government forms. A deep appreciation of history and real human nature doesn’t inspire much confidence, I’m afraid.

Can’t afford time-wise, folks, to get into re-arguing secesh right now, other than to say the basics of Lincoln’s July 4th speech are right. And Dain, you are right about the inadequacy of high-culture philosophy.

Rather, I just want to again say HOLEY MOLEY, this time about the might-have-been and perhaps yet-to-be political implications of this for Webb. Follow the Claremont link...Alexander Stephens is WAY more out there than any defense of secession as a constitutional question, that is, out there into the rawest racism, the most breathtaking denial of the founders, natural rights, etc. If the Allen campaign knew what this Claremont blogger knew, both about the Webb speech and more importantly about Alexander Stephens’, they might have won.

As Dr. Donald Livingston has suggested, Lincoln, the War, and secession is a litmus test of authentic American conservatism.

If defending secession/slavery is the "litmus test of authentic American conservatism," then we’re in a lot bigger trouble than I thought.

I have to second what John has said here...the radical Libertarian Jeffersonian thing is not the litmus test of conservativism. Indeed, those notions are deeply radical and spring from the Enlightenment, which people like Burke deeply distrusted. On the other hand, if Mr. Phillips means that the sovereignty of communities is a deeply conservative idea, and that people have a right to protect their beliefs and traditions by selecting their own governments, then I concur...that really is the heart of conservativism. The whole slavery issue complicates things (in that slaves were not extended these same rights to self-government), but for me its a matter of trade-offs. Was consistence in extending citizenship/suffrage (i.e., ending slavery) worth the price we paid (i.e., centralizing government, half a million war dead, the inception of total war, the impoverishment of the South for a century), I don’t think so. If I were black I’m sure I’d feel differently, of course.

First of all, conservatives should not use the term racism. In fact, they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so. Racism is a neo-Marxist term that lacks a precise or meaningful definition. It has essentially become a verbal club to beat into submission anyone who dares to not march in lock step with the radical egalitarian PC party line. Conservatives who use this term, especially when they use it against conservatives who don’t tow the PC party line are doing the bidding of the leftist group thinkers.

Here is how the typical Union supporting/ anti-secession argument goes. "Slavery ... blah, blah ... slavery ... blah, blah ... slavery ... blah, blah ... and oh, did I mention slavery?" That is not an argument. It is intellectual and verbal intimidation intend to suppress, not enhance, debate about the real issue which is secession and the nature of the state.

Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves. Anyone who claims he did is either relying on "hidden meanings" that the rest of us unenlightened peons don’t get, or is historically illiterate. He went to war to "save the Union." The actual proximate cause of the War was because his Union could not do without the tariff revenues that secession threatened.

Now it is absolutely true that slavery was a cause of secession. But to equate the causes of the War/Invasion with the causes of secession is to accept the Yankee idea that secession was/is a provocative act. That secession was somehow tantamount to a declaration of war. But it was not. It was a peaceful act. Even if you ignore all the evidence that supports that secession was a legal option and buy the flimsy Unionist argument that it was illegal, it does not necessarily follow that it warranted an invasion. Lincoln could have chosen to just let the Deep South go. For it to warrant an invasion means that you think preserving the territorial integrity of a leftist conception of the nation state was worth the lives of 620,000 men. Would it have been worth 1 million lives? Would it have been worth 2 million? Where do you draw the line? How many lives is it worth to preserve the Hobbsian state?

Whoever made the point that Lincoln had decidedly unegalitarian ideas about race is right on. As did Jefferson. That is the point. While many in the North (as did many in the South) opposed the institution of slavery, there were virtually no modern style purist racial egalitarians in 1861. There were even fewer in 1776 or 1787. If they had been egalitarians they would have enshrined women’s suffrage in the Constitution and there would have been no 3/5th compromise. Modern style absolute racial egalitarianism is a less than 50 year old idea in this country. (A brief instant in historical terms.) It is now a political third rail. But even a cursory look at conservative history will reveal that conservatives opposed federal Civil Rights legislation.

Ms. Ponzi asks exactly the right question in # 17. Conservatives should always ask what it is they are trying to conserve. They very seldom ask that. That is why adding a few market incentives to some socialist program that is not constitutionally authorized in the first place passes for profound conservative thought these days, while our traditional society crumbles all around us assaulted on all fronts by liberalism that is essentially unopposed. (In fact, too often conservatives are shilling for it.) Liberalism is forever and always the avowed enemy of traditional society and must be opposed root and branch. But instead, modern conservatives long ago made peace with liberalism and adopted a go slow approach. Well pardon me if I refuse to go along for the ride.

What I object to most is the modern, holier-than-thou, attempt by many conservatives and conservative organizations to rewrite history and co-opt the Civil Rights movement as if it was the obvious intent of the Founders, the Declaration, the Constitution, good ol’ Abe, etc. All those unenlightened conservatives from the Founding and before until a mere 40 to 50 years ago were all ignorant boobs who didn’t get it. But now thanks to Claremont et al we all know the truth. Jefferson, Lincoln et al were actually modern style egalitarians attempting to usher in an egalitarian Utopia. Wow! How did we miss that for so many years? Of course the bright ones don’t even believe their own propaganda. They know it is all intentional verbal slight of hand. The less thoughtful ones, however, regurgitate it on cue.

The Church Lady analogy is entirely appropriate. The church lady sat behind her desk looking down her nose and waging her finger at all the unwashed heathen. The modern attempt to re-interpret and re-invent the American Founding in the light of a very modern phenomenon of purist racial egalitarianism is one big exercise in Church Lady style, holier-than-thou, finger waging at us vile wrong thinkers, especially Southerners. But the joke that made the Church Lady so funny is that we all knew that her uptight prudishness was an attempt to manage her underlying lust. Lusts she had just like the heathens she was scolding. How many of the neocon intellectuals and Lincoln cultists send their kids to substantially mixed public schools? How many live in racially mixed neighborhoods? But because they mouth assent to platidudes they don’t even believe, that makes them pure. Give me a break!


I do not agree with you concerning the costs of stopping slavery. It was most certainly worth it. However, you need to include other benefits of the civil war if you are going to make a correct calculation by your own standards. The breaking of the South allowed the North and Midwest to enact their political desires for industry and infastructure. It is NOT a coincidence that shortly after the civil war there was an explosion in industrial and technological activity in the US. The pre-civil war political dynamic did not allow this, because the Senate would consistently stop any protective tariffs, or States would threaten withdraw when they were consistently carried out.

Since you favor protective tariffs and the like, you should keep that in mind when calculating the benefits.

Q: "Where’s Julie?"

A: At church, of course. And we should join her.

What country has ever promulgated a Constitution with a built-in pre-nup and No-Fault Divorce clause? It defies logic. There was no "forced union"-- those states freely agreed to be ’people of the UNITED States and seek a more perfect UNION’.

Yes, the Declaration posited a right to reluctant rebellion, but certainly not in the service of ’some’ men being created unequal. And if secession was Constitutional then, it remains Constitutional now. No.

Nor was the Slave Power just minding its own business when it found itself suddenly put upon by the "tyrant" Lincoln. There was an active effort to spread slavery to all corners of the country and to make it perpetual and permanent. And to force free states to return runaway "property". Activist Democrat Justice Taney even asserted that free blacks who had enjoyed citizenship in the North for generations had absolutely no rights.

Red, your Noveau French Revolutionaries are not to be found amongst your fellow conservatives. They are on the bench, on the Left and in trans-national institutions. We need every patriot we can get to defeat them, not to mention our foreign enemies. And as a rule, Americans do not come any more patriotic than Southerners. Can I get a rebel yell?

It was a peaceful act.

Tell that to the garrison at Fort Sumter.

As one outside movement conservatism, I find this discussion utterly fascinating. It turns out a Republican party whose center of gravity is now in the South will, according to this thread, have to ignore many of these old arguments (perhaps will that old saw, Lower taxes!!)or will have to cobble together some coherent historical narrative all its own.

I did not know there were so many Lost Causers, Traditionalists, and even Agrarians tuned in calling thmselves both Republicans and conservatives. We even get a whiff of anti-Claremont/Jaffa thrown in, to say nothing of a gratuitous and unkind ad feminam.

Remarkable and, from an historical and theoretical point of view, distressing. I join John Moser in his alarm, and I’m not even a Republican!

Mr. Moser, secession was an entirely peaceful act. I can not help it that Lincoln refused to remove his garrison from a Fort that no longer belonged to him. When he attempted to provision his troops that were in another newly sovereign nation that was a blatant act of war.

But Fort Sumter was a calculated political ploy. Lincoln knew the majority in the Union did not support invasion. But he knew his Whiggish plans could not proceed without the South collecting his precious tariff. So Fort Sumter was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the South into firing the first shot so he could whip up public sentiment to support his invasion.

Speaking of "peace," I guess it was perfectly OK with you that he arrested the Maryland legislature so they wouldn’t vote for secession and quickly occupied Missouri and Kentucky. Also that he failed to meet with peace emissaries sent from the Confederacy multiple times to try to negotiate a settlement. Yeah good ol’ peace loving Abe.

And for the record, my Church Lady comment was not directed personally at Ms. Ponzi, but at the whole blatantly dishonest Lincoln cult/neocon historical revisionist project.

Mr. Moser, why did you say if “defending secession/slavery” instead of just “secession” as the quote implied. Is it that you think your opposition to secession can not stand on its own without invoking slavery?

Noel, the “Slave Power,” that is pretty clever also. Did the “Slave Power” include Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri as well?

Dain, I agree that many Libertarians are essentially leftist. Many are happy to admit they are classical liberals. That is why I am not a libertarian. I am a paleocon. But I can easily make common cause with paleolibertarians who respect tradition and Church instead of just mindlessly railing against all authority. (Where libertarians fall on the political spectrum is a very complicated issue. Most are philosophically leftist, but paleolibs end up being sort of functional rightist. That deserves an article all its own.) I do think some defenders of secession can end up sounding like liberals if they rely too heavily on arguments about consent or contracts. (Discussing the actual Constitution as a contract is fine, I just object to invoking Lockean "social contract theory.") I try hard to avoid that language. Your second characterization is better. “If Mr. Phillips means that the sovereignty of communities is a deeply conservative idea, and that people have a right to protect their beliefs and traditions by selecting their own governments, then I concur...that really is the heart of conservativism.” It is the modernist notion of the Nation State disconnected from and superior to the organic communities from which it sprang that I object to. This is a bit of a hard concept to articulate precisely but prior to the Enlightenment inspired focus on the atomistic individual it was a given. The state and the government arise from the organic communities that make it up. It is these individual communities all with their own sovereignties that come together to make a larger sovereignty for the greater good of all but not ceding their own sovereignty. The state is not the result of some fanciful, imaginary aggregate of the “people” as a collection of individuals.

Montesquieu had it half right. We must have division of power within the sovereign government. But you can not have one unitary, “indivisible” sovereign, even with divided powers, and expect it to “protect liberty” and not become tyrannical. The current regime, which pays absolutely no attention to the Constitution as it spends your money, is an excellent case in point. We must have competing sovereignties as well to keep the central government in check. That is why the issue of States Rights, nullification, State interposition, and ultimately secession is so important in controlling the tyranny of the central government. Secession is the ultimate check and balance. On this the Confederacy had it right and the Union had it wrong. Calhoun had it right and Webster had it wrong. The discussion is about secession. I ask all the Union defenders to put aside what they have been indoctrinated by the victors in the War, and look at first principles. Do you want to be a defender of the concept of the state ushered in by the French Revolution or do you want to defend the more ancient concept of divided sovereignty? So yes Noel, my reference to the French Revolution is entirely appropriate.

Unreconstructed - [Lincoln] arrested the Maryland legislature so they wouldn’t vote for secession.

Would you document this statement please?

I am breaking this post into two parts so it will not be so long. There is so much misinformation to correct.

“And to force free states to return runaway "property". Activist Democrat Justice Taney even asserted that free blacks who had enjoyed citizenship in the North for generations had absolutely no rights.”

Noel, do you know what several states did in response? They NULLIFIED the Supreme Court decision. As good conservative States today should nullify Roe, Lawrence, etc. (It is what Alabama should have done to protect Judge Moore.) If conservatives weren’t so busy justifying the Lincoln myth of American history, they would realize that they should use the idea of divided sovereignty to protect themselves and their communities against encroachments from the Feds. I dare one pro-lifer to tell me their State shouldn’t nullify Roe. (Actually nullification wouldn’t be necessary except in the individual case of Roe, but “conservatives” tacitly accept the unconstitutional doctrine of judicial review as well, a doctrine that goes hand in glove with the federal supremacy doctrine.) If you do, you are placing subservience to the Lincoln myth ahead of the lives of babies.

I do not have time to discuss all the historical justifications for why secession is a legal remedy. The vast majority of the historical evidence suggests that it is. But do note that many of the defenders/theorizers of the Unionist view came along later and were very young or not yet born at the time of the Founding. Webster, Story, Lincoln.

“What country has ever promulgated a Constitution with a built-in pre-nup and No-Fault Divorce clause? It defies logic. There was no "forced union"-- those states freely agreed to be ’people of the UNITED States and seek a more perfect UNION’.”

That statement thoroughly reeks of the post French Revolution modern state concept that I am criticizing. In fact, three states, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia, expressly withheld the right to secede.

“And as a rule, Americans do not come any more patriotic than Southerners. Can I get a rebel yell?”

Absolutely we are. But as Clyde Wilson has noted, a gentleman’s agreement of sorts arose after the horrors of Reconstruction whereby the South agreed to be patriotic Americans, and the North agreed to honor and respect the brave and heroic deeds of the South and its leaders and soldiers. A truce of sorts. This worked for a while. Notice the favorable characterizations of Southerners in the Andy Griffith Show, old Westerns, all the monuments in the South, holidays in the South for Confederate Memorial Day, Lee’s Birthday, etc. Then along came a bunch of PC goons who violated the peace. They demanded that Southerners no longer revere their brave forefathers and the Cause for which they fought and died. Now we were supposed to demonize and “apologize” for them (see scalawag Allen comment above) and abjectly bow at the altar of the newly revises Yankee version of history. The saddest part is that some so called conservatives joined the demonize the South chorus along with the left. (Not surprising since those so called conservatives were leftists.) This abandonment of the old agreement had been going on for a long time before but culminated in the debate on the “right” on the confirmation of the excellent scholar and fine gentleman, Mel Bradford. Southerners remain patriotic, but let us hope that at least some understand that patriotism means loyalty to ones land and country not to its government

“And if secession was Constitutional then, it remains Constitutional now. No.” Absolutely it is! Thanks for not falling for the highly unchristian argument often put forth by your side that might makes right. That the outcome of the War for Southern Independence somehow “settled” the question of the constitutionality of secession. Vermont has a secession movement. They just elected a socialist Senator. Would not all the rest of America be better off if they went their own separate way and formed a happy little socialist republic? Look at what happened in the election. The North is getting more liberal. They replaced their RINO reps with Democrats, and the South, despite all the assaults of modernity and forces of cultural homogenation has retained at least some of its historic conservative character. As an orthodox (small o), conservative Christian it is self evidently obvious to me that the South would be better governed by ourselves without New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, etc. dragging us down. The Union of the disparate cultures of the North and South was an unnatural union from the beginning. (As the anti-Federalist maintained all along.) Secession should be on the mind of any Southern conservative who is serious about his conservatism.

Mr. Scott, “…the most breathtaking denial of the founders, natural rights…” Please read my comment # 8. Natural Rights are a liberal concept. Now what to do with Jefferson’s inalienable rights endowed by God is a complicated issue. It is probably important to note that the first draft had “inherent and inalienable” and “inherent” was subsequently removed. But whatever was meant by Jefferson, the Founders obviously did not intend to apply those rights to slaves. As someone noted above, if they had there would not have been a 3/5th compromise. Intellectual honesty demands that if the Founders were wrong about slavery then just say they were wrong. Don’t twist language to justify retrospectively that freeing slaves was actually their intent?

Mr. Moser, why did you say if “defending secession/slavery” instead of just “secession” as the quote implied. Is it that you think your opposition to secession can not stand on its own without invoking slavery?

Good point, Red. In fact, I’ve been thinking about seceding for some time now. Here we go--All Hail the Republic of John Moser, made up of a quarter of an acre or so of land that used to be part of the oppressive city of Ashland, in the tyrannical state of Ohio, in the despotic United States of America! Population: two people, two yellow labs, and two cats. I’ll be minting my own money shortly, and sending delegations to negotiate with foreign powers. That is, unless the godless forces of Statism intervene to crush my dreams of independence.

Q: "Can I get a Rebel Yell?"

A: Evidently not.

There was not then and is not now a Constitutional prerogative to secede. There certainly is a natural right to rebel--coupled with a natural moral duty that the cause be justified. The continuation and expansion of slavery did not meet that test.

John, I’ve been thinking of declaring my living room a sovereign state for some time now. In fact, my wife and I are on our way to Washington to claim our Senate seats--and, boy, is Harry Reid going to be upset! I would be happy to recognize Republique de Moser if you could see your way clear to supporting statehood for Barcoloungeia.

Mr. Thomas,

You should only have to go as far as the nearest basic American history textbook to find documentation for my statement. Of course most history books, since they reflect the views of the winner, tend to gloss over it. Here is what Wikipedia says.

"Despite strong support for the cause of the Confederate States of America, Maryland did not secede during the American Civil War (sic), in part due to precautions taken by the government in Washington, D.C. President Lincoln suspended several civil liberties, including the writ of habeas corpus, ordered US troops to place artillery on Federal Hill to directly threaten the city of Baltimore and helped ensure the election of a new pro-union governor and legislature. President Lincoln even went so far as to jail certain pro-south members of the state legislature at Fort McHenry including, ironically, the grandson of Francis Scott Key."
Are you familiar with the Maryland state song? Here is the discussion of it at Wikipedia.

"The poem was a result of events at the beginning of the American Civil War (sic). During the secession crisis, President Abraham Lincoln (referred to in the poem as "the despot" and "the tyrant") ordered federal troops to be brought to Washington, D.C. to protect the capital. Many of these troops were brought through Baltimore City, a major transportation hub. There was a lot of Confederate sympathy in Maryland at the time and riots ensued in April 1861. Several people were killed in the Baltimore riots, including a friend of James Ryder Randall. Randall, a native Marylander, was teaching in Pointe Coupee, Louisiana at the time and, moved by the news of his friend’s death, wrote the nine-stanza poem, "Maryland, My Maryland" which was first published in the New Orleans Sunday Delta on 26 April 1861. The poem was quickly turned into a song by putting it to the tune "O Tannenbaum" (also known as "Lauriger Horatius") and became instantly popular in Maryland and throughout the South. It was sometimes called "the Marseillaise of the South."" The song is too long to post so here is the link

Hey, kids, is this the "soul-searching" conservatives are supposed to be doing after having our butts kicked last Tuesday? Just an observation...I’ll try to make a more substantive comment later.

Mr. Phillips, Unreconstructed, this will be my only response to your comments. Accuse me of all the haughtiness you wish. One may admit present-day and earlier Northern arrogance. One may admit that the antebellum South had certain aristocratic and other features, that humanly speaking, are very attractive, witness the character of Lee in particular. One may, as I have many times, worry about the corrosively Hobbesian elements in the American tradition of nat right, even if recognizing that there are other elements. One may admit that the way the Constitution was adopted did not unambiguously rule out secession, as the key founder Gouvernour Morris and others said that secession might be a possiblity, (Cf. Forest McDonald’s Novus Ordo Seclorum, p. 281). So, hey, some other time, minus someone nursing the 150-year old resentment, I’m ready to ponder a devil’s advocate defense of secesh as useful for shedding light on certain blind spots of American constitutionalism.

But one may not excuse Alexander Stephens and his like when it comes to race and equality. And one really should not, esp. on NLT, deny the founders’ deep convicition about the essential equality of humankind. On the side-bar of NLT you will notice a link to VINDICATING THE FOUNDERS. There you will find links to documents that refute the idea that the founders "obviously did not intend to apply those rights to slaves." The excellent book (by Thomas West) those links support displays full awareness of the darker sides of the issue here, namely that Jefferson and some other founders pondered, despite the essential equality of mankind, whether blacks were inferior in mental ability and whether they and whites living together peaceably as fellow citizens was possible. But complexity and dark shades do not give you grounds for your views, views that ultimately lead to white nationalism, about as unpleasant and useless a doctrine it can be to hold.

You go live your life for a couple of days and look what happens . . . !? Sorry I missed it. The in-laws had their 50th Wedding anniversary and I planned their surprise party so I’ve been out of commission. I’ve moved over to the new thread under Steve’s post about Webb. This one is getting tedious.

Mr. Moser, there is nothing new under the sun. Your objection comes up routinely in the 100 other threads I have been involved in on secession. Some libertarians believe in the right of individual political secession. I do not have to defend the concept since I am not a libertarian.

Some Confederates would argue that the concept logically stops at the level of the State. The Unionist argument goes that the Federal Government created the States as administrative units of itself. Of course this is absurd on its face. It is clear that the States created the Union, not vice versa. But some Confederates would say that the States/Colonies are the organic or primordial political entity. The original charters from the King created the Colonies. In the case of the States/Colonies it is generally true that the counties were created by the States as administrative units. So they would argue that a county could not lawfully secede from a State.

Personally I have no problem with counties or groups of counties seceding from a State. Or a city from a county. The key would be that the duly elected representatives of the County or City voted to do it.

Cities routinely incorporate areas without the consent of those being incorporated, usually because they are affluent areas and the greedy city wants the tax revenue. I’m sure you would agree that this is a travesty of justice. So why shouldn’t it work the other way? If an unincorporated area should be able to refuse annexation, then why shouldn’t they be able to withdraw?

Anyway, arguments against secession always gravely invoke the specter of anarchy. Please show me one historical example where an excess of secession has lead to anarchy. I will everywhere show you tyranny. I am offering a possible check against tyranny, and you are warning of anarchy. Based on the real world of what is actually happening around us, which is the bigger problem?

On that note, your reductio ad absurdumis weak because it calls on us to fear some outcome that is highly unlikely. That large numbers of people spurred by secession arguments will independently secede. While a casual look around the globe or at the last 200 years will reveal many incidences of unitary central governments exceeding their power and tyrannizing the people or other nations. Again, which is the bigger problem?

Allow me a question. Is there a difference between the right to secede and the right to rebel? If so, what is it?

I would be happy to recognize Republique de Moser if you could see your way clear to supporting statehood for Barcoloungeia.

Why, that’s a fine idea, Noel! But why not go a step further, and form a, a Confederacy! Never sacrificing our basic sovereign rights, of course, and respecting each other’s rights to do pretty much whatever we like to weaker beings within our respective domains. Long live the new Confederacy!

Mr. Scott, thanks for the thoughtful first paragraph. These secession threads generally lack reason and civility.

"But complexity and dark shades do not give you grounds for your views, views that ultimately lead to white nationalism, about as unpleasant and useless a doctrine it can be to hold."

You have no idea what my views are other than my self-professed paleoconservatism. Actually paleos and white nationalist generally do not see eye to eye on race. White nationalist routinely accuse paleos of not being concerned enough with race. And you should know that paleoconservatism is hostile to nationalism (as an ideological political concept) in favor of regionalism. How can you accuse someone who is on the record as wanting the South to secede of being any kind of nationalist? Secession is a blow to nationalism. Many white nationalist oppose secession, respect Lincoln, and are unapologetic Statists.

What I have consistently called for is intellectual honesty instead of twisting the historical facts to support a modern position. It is my forefathers and my region that get tarnished by this craven tactic, and off course the North gets off Scott free. You do not have to be a moral relativist to understand that you can not fairly view someone or their actions outside their historic frame of reference. Their actions must be examined in light of the times. That is largely not what is happening when it comes to the court scholarship on Lincoln, the South, and the War. It is historical revisionism pure and simple.

Yea, perhaps it’s time to end this thread. As I suspected, the pro-Lincoln crowd really has nothing to point to except that SLAVERY WAS BAD, BAD, BAD, and of course we are evil racists for even dreaming of saying that the South had certain rights under the Constitution. Pitiful political’s just like arguing with the Leftoids, no different at all.

Moser, as I’ve told the trolls often enough, sarcasm is no substitute for principled argumentation. It’s a crunch used by weak minds...I want you to examine all your posts in this thread and tell me exactly what you have contributed (other than sniping and derision).

Carl, even Lincoln entertained negative thoughts about the mental abilities of black folks. That was the era, and in and of itself it does not constitute a legitimate condemnation of Stephens or anyone else. Yes, the Southerners were wed to an institution that was dying out, and in hindsight they should have relinquished the oddity. But that is hindsight, and MOST people of the day were fighting for independence/union. To justify the war based on its outcome is a clear case of ends justifying means...yes? A mighty slippery slope, that.

Ponzi...the heat a bit much for you? You Straussians are a fragile, bloodless bunch (evidently), which explains why any reconstituted conservative movement will not be based on the Ashland/Claremont axis. All of you have struggled so long to gain academic legitimacy, you’ve lost touch with the base...and we know where that leads.


I fear the honor of the Confederate States of Blogistania has been besmirched. This can only mean...WAR!!!

Let me say something about the Founders since their names have been bandied about. Some, like Adams, were anti-slavery from the beginning. Same with Hamilton, a proto-abolitionist, who as a child saw the horrors up-close in the cane-fields and slave-markets of the West Indies. Franklin, who reportedly owned a slave as a young man, went on to write biting anti-slavery satire.

Even Jefferson and Henry, who could not bring themselves to free their slaves, wrote of its fundamental incompatibility with American principles. They just knew not how to dismount the tiger.

As usual, Washington led the way. He stopped breaking up families. He trained his slaves to be free tradesmen and upon his death, freed them. He wrote letters to his influential friends urging that slavery be ended. No, he didn’t mount a public campaign, judging that it would dismember his country and leave the continent vulnerable to becoming another Europe of squabbling nations. It would have given the Confederacy a four-score and seven year head-start. It was the right call, I think.

And the pro-slavery compromises contained in the Constitution (including waiting until 1808 to ban any new slave importation)--may also be read as anti-slavery provisions.

It had to go. And given that hot-headed Southerners such as myself were given to statements like “Slavery is our King – Slavery is our Truth – Slavery is our Divine Right!”, it had to end violently. And good riddance. It corrupted everyone and everything it ever touched.

Secession is a settled issue to me. And it is profoundly unconservative to posit it as a remedy after nearly a century-and-a-half. Instead, we should focus our attentions on the new radicals who want to erase all our traditions. American, not Confederate, traditions.

Would the partisans of the South please be so good as to read the various Ordinances of Secession, with all words referring to slavery, social institutions, and negroes redacted, and then ask themselves if those ordinances make any sense at all?

Of all the rights to run State’s Rights on the rocks for, they picked THAT one.

Unreconstructed - #45: I had hoped for a fairer description of what Lincoln faced and exactly what happed in Maryland. O, well. Readers might go to McPherson’s Battle Cry for some of the details.

Julie says this is tedious. That’s true only if she misses the fact that the thread has become, as if spontaneously, a parody.

So, let’s see, a guy who adds "the Roman" as his monicker has a problem with slavery. FYI, dude, Rome had more slaves per capita than any other society in history. I guess they can be "great," or "noble," or "admirable," right?

Here is a link to the Ordinances of Secession for every Confederate State. If you would, please tell us how many actually name the "peculiar institution." How many name the attack on sovereign States by the Federal power as their raison d’etre for secession? Come on, Ed...let us know.

As for all the Founders who had "qualms" about slavery, they valued Union over Freedom...yes? Guess what, so did Abe Lincoln! Do you really want me to produce the quotations? Regardless, doesn’t the Left often justify violence in the name of immediate justice? Couldn’t any violence, legal or not, be justified on the basis of a "morality." Why shouldn’t the poor slit all our throats tomorrow, given that logic?

And so far as slavery "having to go," I believe that as well. I just don’t think it required half a million dead men, a region ruined for a century, and the emergence of an Empire where a Republic once stood. If conservativism isn’t about preserving our traditions and property against political expropriation, what the hell is it about?

Mark Neely, who is rather pro-Lincoln, has a section on the arrest of Maryland legislators in _The Fate of Liberty_. He includes the following quote from honest Abe: "The public safety renders it necessary that the grounds of these arrests should at present be withheld, but at the proper time they will be made public." (18) Needless to say that time never arrived. Ponzi is correct to find the origins of today’s Republican Party in the Party of Lincoln.

Mr. Thomas,

"That’s true only if she misses the fact that the thread has become, as if spontaneously, a parody."

Why is it a parody? Because some people refuse to tow your party line? Sadly, that actually is the way it is today. Logical argument is not welcome. Only mindless regurgitation of approved group think. The only parody is how thoroughly we are arguing circles around you. The Southern partisans are presenting facts and logical arguments and the Unionist are making jokes.

"I had hoped for a fairer description of what Lincoln faced and exactly what happed in Maryland."

So are you suggesting that pro-South representatives weren’t actually arrested?

Unreconstructed - No, that happened, though after the legislature in the spring of 1861 refused to support secession. There was context, including attacks on federal troops in Baltimore, for the the government’s tough response. When the MD legislature threatened another secession try, Lincoln had some of its seditious members arrested. Maryland’s geographic location obviously required transport to be kept open, and southern sympathizers were attacking those lines long before Lincoln acted. I thought you should have told us about that. That’s why I responded in the first place.

As for arguing circles around those who disagree with you, I think not. It’s just that all this has been said before. The theoretical point about Lincoln’s affirmation of the Declaration’s second paragraph (with which Julie began) remains the core issue. To call that PC. . .well, it’s a free country, perhaps in part because of ideas you reject.

Mr. Thomas,

So support of secession equals sedition? Nice. I’m sure statist and tyrants everywhere would agree.

Mr. Scott,

I know you think I don’t get it, but I do. Here is how it is supposed to go. The radical feminist, the Black studies types, and liberals of various sorts say the Founders were all vile, racist, slaveholding, misogynistic, chauvinistic, elitist pigs who founded this Country on the backs of slaves and women. That the nation was birthed in oppression. So the revisionists go out and round up quotes and documents from the Founders in an attempt to prove otherwise. We all know that any attempt to prove that the Founders and Lincoln were all modern style pure egalitarian democrats is foolish nonsense, but no one is supposed to be so impolite as to point that out. Then we can all rest comfortably in the knowledge that there is "scholarship" out there that proves the Founders and Lincoln were pure as the driven snow enlightened egalitarians who just happened to be hostages of their backward times. They really did want full social and political equality for Blacks and women; they were just waiting for the times to catch up with their enlightenment ideas. So then when the leftist says the Founders were all a bunch of racist, male chauvinist pigs, we can all answer confidently with a big collective "Oh no they were not." And guys like me must be ridiculed into silence because we mess up the nice little narrative you have constructed.

See, I really do get it. I’m just not yet willing to sell my soul.

There are two problems with the story. First, it is cooking the books and blatantly dishonest. I have no problem with searching for documents and quotes that support your point of view. We all do that to some extent. But you aren’t just cherry picking quotes. You are engaged in blatant distortion, and this distortion comes with a price. It ends up being a moral fairy tale with saintly good guys and evil bad guys (scapegoats really.) Lincoln is the Saint and Stephens is the evil bad guy. Yankees are pure and the South is evil. etc. Even though Lincoln is on record as saying very impure things about race. Yeah, I know he was just pandering to the crowd and he really didn’t mean it. It had to be said in order to fool the unenlightened masses, so he could usher in an egalitarian utopia on earth. Whatever.

Second, if have no problem with countering the lies and distortions of the left, but this strategy is not a strategy of fighting the left. It is abject surrender to the left. You don’t question their egalitarian assumptions. You pre-emptively concede to them. If this wasn’t the case, why would the Founders need to be "Vindicated?" Vindicated from what? Wrong think?

I will definitely check out the Vindicating the Founders book. I will withhold judgment on it until I do.

You really need to think about what you are doing. So many modern conservatives have default accepted the assumptions of the liberals, and when called bad names they jump through hoops attempting to prove they are not guilty of impure thoughts. They kiss up to the left. Equally as shamefully they demonize those on the right who have yet to uncritically accept their liberal egalitarian presumptions. Allow me to illustrate. Some Republicans (have they no shame?) attacked Webb for his views on women in the military. Someone at Redstate called his views “Neanderthal.” (That is oh so enlightened of them isn’t it?) As they say, with friends like that, who needs enemies?


Sorry, you got a nom de blog (cached by browser) for a religious arena where I had to distinguish myself as RC.

I mispoke in alluding the the actual Ordinances of Secession; I meant the various proclamations in which the seceding states sought to justify secession. They are available here:

If you read the editorials and writing of the time, it is readily apparent that the South intended the war that they desired to provoke by secession to defeat and then reconstitute the Union, slave throughout.

In South Carolina, speech was free except for criticism of the Peculiar Institution: that was a punishable offense. Under the Confederate Constitution, the Peculiar Institution was eternal. Its protection was set down several sections before freedom of religion.

It is often argues that Sumter was fired on to expel an occupation, but it is not clear exactly what the status was of Forts in that situation: they were extraterritorial to the States in important respects: federal jurisdiction was exclusive in them, and they could not be taxed. What WAS obvious was that the Charleston Confederate commander was determined that there would be war, and that he would fire the first shot, certain of victory.

You may talk of taxes. You may talk of almost anything, but in the minds of the aristocrats who were the political class of the South, the showstopping issue was preserving and extending slavery, because they knew that the Northern economy would wag their dog in a few decades due to the greater productivity of the free. They didn’t think free industrial workers were really free, of course; these guys thought that freedom meant having slaves so as not to do any work other than ruling over others.

This entire argument is silly. The Southern partsians do not have a leg to stand on. When South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter they were attacking Union property/citizens. At that point the Federal government had the right to go down into the South and kill every person who supported such a cause, consistent with the rules of war.

This is directly analgous to 9/11. People crash airplanes into buildings and then America goes and kills them, etc. I see no difference that would make the South somehow have a respectible cause. They started a war and lost badly. They were occupied. It seems directly analgous to what is happening today, although the physical proximity makes it somewhat different.

"Man, Joe States said, Old Sherman told them at the very outset. Old Sherman was from up north but he was working in a military school down in Louisiana when they first started talking all the old loudmouth secession jive. He told them. He said, Personally I like you all, I really do. But when you start talking some old stuff about messing with the Union, I’m sorry, you all don’t know what you all are letting yourself in for. That’s what he told them, and that didn’t do any good he showed them.

"Oh but did he show them, Ted Chandler said. So much for the Seesesh. Don’t care how mad these old peckerwoods anywhere down here get about anything, the one thing you don’t here any of them talking about no more is secession. They wave their flag and give that old rebel yell but that’s as far as it goes, buddy.

"These people, Wayman Ridgeway said. These people and all this old hype, and they keep on passing it on from generation to generation. That’s one of the main things I can’t understand about this whole situation. Look, Schoolboy, what about this shit. Now they put the badmouth on old Benedict Arnold for whatever it was he did, and then they turn around and let these people get away with all this old stuff. And I’m not talking abot the denying us our birthrights, I’m talking about glorifying old Jeff Davis and Lee and Stonewall and them, even Nathan Bedford Forrest.

"Man, that’s right, Ike Ellis said. Man they ruined Benedict Arnold’s reputation forever, and here these people down here still putting up all these old monuments and hanging out all these old Dixie banners all over the place on holidays, national holidays.

"Then he also said, Look, you all I’m talking about the Constitution. Wasn’t no Constitution when Benedict Arnold came along. Man, old rawboned, frozen face Jeff Davis flat out told them. He said, Look, these are my niggers just like these are my livestock, and if you all don’t let me have my way about how I run my business I’m going to tear up this piece of paper because that’s all it is to me.

"What about all this old stuff, Schoolboy, Osceola Menefee said, What did them college profs say about all this old historical hype?"

From Albert Murray’s The Seven League Boots , gents, for a little perspective.

Well since we are quoting others.

"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 2nd ed. (London, 1970), 477.

"The neos point out the negative aspects of the Western and American heritage: oppression, exploitation, racism, patriarchy and other authoritarian tendencies, and narrow, ethnocentric conceptions of art and decorum. Rather than viewing America as the product of an Anglo-Christian people and tradition, neocons see this country as the repository of certain laudable ideals: freedom, equality, democracy.

Robert S. Griffin via the Wikipedia entry on paleoconservatism. The Wikipedia article is great, btw. I recommend everyone here read it.

Unreconstructed - The precise point where we disagree is whether a state has a constitutional right to secede. You say yes; I say no. The best reasons for saying no are laid out in Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. This reasoning does not apply to tyrants and statists everywhere, but to a constitutional order like ours. It does not even deny the right of revolution, which Lincoln specifically upheld. Since I agree with Lincoln’s constitutionalism, I say those who blew up bridges and tore up railroad tracks in Maryland in the spring and summer of 1861 committed acts of sedition.

Joe States and co.: Thanks for the Albert Murray, an interesting and deep guy.

"In 1950, Lionel Trilling, a forefather of the neoconservatives, said that liberalism is the "sole intellectual tradition" in the United States. He dismissed Old Right conservatives as expressing "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas." Three years later, future paleocon Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind challenged this thesis." Wikipedia

"In 1972, James Burnham commented that the neoconservatives still clung to "what might be called the emotional gestalt of liberalism, the liberal sensitivity and temperament."He said they substituted abstractions about "compassion, kindliness, love and brotherhood" for indispinsible civic virtues. These were "courage, duty, discipline, and especially self-discipline, loyalty, endurance, [and] yes, patriotism." Wikipedia

"The conservative’s traditional sympathy for the American South and its people and heritage, evident in the works of such great American conservatives as Richard M. Weaver and Russell Kirk, began to disappear... [T]he neocons are heavily influenced by Woodrow Wilson, with perhaps a hint of Theodore Roosevelt..." Thomas Woods via Wikipedia

"The reason the left prefers the neocon “right” to a paleo alternative is, quite simply, that the neocons are essentially of the left themselves and, thus, provide a fake opposition against which the rest of the left can shadowbox and thereby perpetuate its own political and cultural hegemony unchallenged by any authentic right,." Sam Francis via Wiki

This is really a whole lot of fun. I’ll continue if you like or do you want me to stop the pain?

Unreconstructed - I’m not sure whom you are asking, and why should you ask at all?

Conservatism’s regard for the South was usually, as far as I know, selective. Insofar as the southern old regime (or its image and emotional allure) depended upon slavery, embrace of it was at best eccentric (at worst, mean and angry). Beginning with Fitzhugh, it was a way of rejecting liberalism root and branch, and of rebuking the North for its self-righteousness and lack of self-understanding. There is also, as everybody already knows, a tradition of denying that that regime needed slavery and denying that its claims in 1861 were essentially about slavery. The second (historical) proposition seems historically perverse to me; the first part implies that continued white supremacy would do just fine. Thank God, that latter train has left the station.

That said, it is still possible to admire certain "southern" virtues and customs, including those you find in the James Burnham quotation. You are still more likely to find them, I think, among southerners, white and black, along with good manners and piety. Who will deny that "the South" has much to teach, say, New England?

"do you want me to stop the pain?"

That comment was directed at no one in particular. Just all the previous posters who are liberal Union apologist in general. The quotes condemning your side were just coming so fast and furiously that I was starting to feel a little guilty. Like I was bloodying up your ideas a little too harshly. I just want y’all to see the error of your liberal ways, not feel bad about yourselves. :-)

My last being unanswered, I will provide an example of the reasoning of the south. Taken from the second paragraph of "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union."

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world."

This is why I become impatient with the "It’s a Floor Wax!! It’s a Dessert Topping!!" debate over what the war was really about.

Ooooh, ouch! World-view...under attack.... Pain...too much.... the name of all that is more WIKIPEDIA! I give up! My liberal ways are no match for the awesome power of Tom Woods and Sam Francis!

Give me a friggin’ break.

Lighten up, Mr. Moser. I was just trying to introduce a little levity to this serious and deep discussion. But you do have to admit this is a brilliant quote.

"The reason the left prefers the neocon “right” to a paleo alternative is, quite simply, that the neocons are essentially of the left themselves and, thus, provide a fake opposition against which the rest of the left can shadowbox and thereby perpetuate its own political and cultural hegemony unchallenged by any authentic right,." Sam Francis

That quote is a thang (as we say down South) of beauty. I’m going to enlarge it and hang it on my wall. Come on now and admit it. That has got to hurt a little bit doesn’t it? "Fake opposition." Man that is cold blooded.

I mispoke in alluding the the actual Ordinances of Secession; I meant the various proclamations in which the seceding states sought to justify secession. They are available here:

I notice your new reference displays statements of only 4 of the Confederate States, and all of them are early secessionists. This whole argument about slavery being the major or sole cause of secession is out-and-out BS. There were 13 fully-fledged States that left the Union. Guess what, only about half (7, to be exact) seceded PRIOR to Ft. Sumter. If you study these histories you find many States leaving in response to Lincoln’s call for militia to attack the early secessionists (that includes Virginia, I might add). They made common cause with the fledgling Confederacy because of Lincoln’s eagerness to make war.

As for soldiers dying for a cause, I’m sure ideology/nationalism, etc. rally them to the flag. But charging that wall in Fredericksburg or across that field in Gettysburg? Nope, that was esprit de corps in combination with squad-level honor. "Cause" or not, when men break (as they did at Bull Run), only shame can pull them back together. Why am I even arguing about this? It’s even on another, too much water under the bridge to catch up at this point.

By the way, I am NOT a neo-Confederate. It doesn’t matter to me WHY the South seceded from the Union. I only think they had the legal right to do so, and their struggle for independence was heroic (regardless of its other merits). The opinions expressed here are varied and nuanced...why can’t Lincolnphiles stay on the topic at hand?

You’re right that I don’t cite all the CSA justifications. That would get a little prolix for a blog.

Studying the histories of the late seceders would still find political elites in sympathy with the sentiment expressed by Mississippi.

Seven states remaining in the Union, at that time, could have filibustered the appropriations for the expedition. That might have tried by those so very anxious to avoid fraternal bloodshed. But they weren’t very anxious about that. They wanted a slave empire from sea to shining sea, and the gallantry of their soldiers and the talent of their officers (indisputable) doesn’t change that.

And so good night.

By "they" I assume you mean the tiny minority of Southerners who owned large numbers of slaves? So, the fact that didn’t opt to fight a hopeless battle in the Senate damns them, but Lincoln’s call for troops (just 3 days after Sumter) is right and true. I love your standards, man.

And I want you to think about this...most of the Southern men who sacrificed their lives in the Civil War didn’t own any slaves, and didn’t have much hope of becoming plantation owners (actually, a major point in Webb’s book on the Scots-Irish), and yet their losses were colossal. I think you are doing a terrible disservice to these men by insisting that that their major motive was to spread slavery. It was more complicated than that...the cultural differences went far deeper than slavery, something they felt very keenly.

most of the Southern men who sacrificed their lives in the Civil War didn’t own any slaves, and didn’t have much hope of becoming plantation owners (actually, a major point in Webb’s book on the Scots-Irish), and yet their losses were colossal.

Well, this could be answered in two ways. One, most scholarship on the Old South suggests that southern whites in general benefited tremendously from slavery, whether they actually owned slaves or not. Poor whites could always console themselves with the fact that at least they weren’t black slaves.

The other way of answering is that maybe poor whites were duped into fighting a war that in no way served their interests. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that such a phenomenon has occurred.

"...maybe poor whites were duped into fighting a war that in no way served their interests. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that such a phenomenon has occurred."

Careful John, careful!!

Actually, Mr. Moser’s comment that Southerners have too often been the cannon fodder for someone else’s war is one of the few areas where I agree with him. (Now he will probably retract it.) There is a good article by Joseph Stromberg in the current Southern Partisan on this issue. The patriotism of Southerners that someone commented on above has too often caused them to volunteer and/or cheerlead for wars that were not in their best interest, the current War certainly included.

Mr. Scanlon, why must Mr. Moser be careful? Was that an attempt at censorship or just a joke?

Now I am going to try to answer some of the issues raised above about slavery and the cause of the War for Southern Independence. Then I think I am going to sign off. I have work to do.

The moralistic fairy tale of a pure North going to War to free slaves held in the vile racist South is a joke. The fanciful suggestion that Lincoln was trying to "expand" the Declaration to slaves is equally a joke. (Actually, since the Union side always wants to vilify Stephens, he was wrong about that. I doubt he actually believed it. It just made for good us against them polemic to fire up the masses.)


People confuse the causes of secession with the cause of the War. I agree with Unreconstructed above. " equate the causes of the War/Invasion with the causes of secession is to accept the Yankee idea that secession was/is a provocative act. That secession was somehow tantamount to a declaration of war. But it was not. It was a peaceful act." Most Southerners recognized it would mean War, but it did not have to. It only did because Lincoln made it mean war.

I concede that slavery was a cause of secession, and I am capable of criticizing the scholarship on my side the same as I do the scholarship on the other. Those who say slavery wasn’t an issue (few go that far) or that it was all about tariffs, are cherry picking history the same way the retrospective egalitarians are. (The tariff was the primary reason that Lincoln thought he could not let the South go and ultimately why he invaded, but like I said, the invasion and secession are different issues.) Now I am perfectly OK with picking out instances of Yankee hypocrisy on race, but that proves my point that there were no egalitarians in 1861. (There weren’t many egalitarians in 1961 for that matter.) If someone wants to paint a picture of the South as a bastion of multicultural
bliss and Yankeedom as full of vile racist, that is no less of an exaggerated morality tale than what I am accusing the other side of. It makes for good polemic, but bad history.

What is extremely important to point out, and the point most often missed (ignored) by the retrospective moralizers, is that by 1861 slavery was not just an economic institution. It had become a method of social control. The average Southerner did not own slaves or have a direct economic interest in slavery. (Other than a sort of interest in the general economic prosperity of the region. In fact, since slaves were doing work they would otherwise be doing, the net economic impact on the average yeomen might have been negative.) But they certainly perceived themselves as having a social/cultural/safety issue in the slaves not being freed in one fell swoop. That is why is was harder to get the Whites in Eastern and Central Tennessee interested in secession but much easier in West Tennessee, for example. Because those regions were inhospitable to plantation agriculture there were few slaves.

If the moralist could put down their modernist blinders for a minute, they would realize that America and the South in particular were historically very anomalous. The races historically do not reside in close proximity to each other. That whole Sahara Desert (and Himalayan Mountain) thing. But here in the South you had huge numbers of Blacks living in close proximity to Whites and that was only because we unnaturally brought them here. So there was "racism" in the South because that is where the races co-existed. Had there been large numbers of blacks in Vermont (had Vermont been where the cotton grew) for example, there would have been "racism" there. Anyone who denies that is a naive fool or involved in intentional distortion. In New York, for example, the White ethnics couldn’t even get along (al la Gangs of New York.) So I guess they were guilty of "etnicism."

In many areas the Blacks substantially outnumbered the Whites. Part of the reason the South was concerned about expansion and having the territories open to slaves is because, obviously the slaves were procreating, and they needed somewhere for them to go. It is easy to set back in hindsight and make snide comments about the "Slave Power" and envision a bunch of men setting around discussing their ideological commitment to slavery. But it denies the reality of the very difficult question of what was supposed to become of this huge population of Blacks living in the midst of a predominantly Anglo/Anglo-Celtic culture. If you think it was as easy as just freeing all the slaves overnight and immediately granting them complete social and political equality, you are blinded by your liberalism. To do that would have surely meant the immediate destruction of that predominately and historically White society as they knew it. It would have been political, cultural, and perhaps in many cases literal suicide. Does anyone disagree with that statement?

Lincoln was aware of this dynamic. It is one reason why he had no interest in freeing the slaves already in the South to begin with. He only gave the Emancipation Proclamation to incite slave rebellions in the South, and he later said he regretted it.

The reason I said above that paleos differ from white nationalist on race is related to the above discussion. Race has historically not been an issue, because the races were not in contact, by and large. In Europe White English and Germans and French were killing each other (and forming distinctly English and German and French cultures) long before most had ever set eyes on someone from another race. Ethnicity/language/culture/religion etc. has generally been the more important issue historically. Historically, race is really a supra-category. The ideology of race sometimes embraced by “white nationalists” is hence anomalous because it has only been in relatively recent history that large scale contact of the races has happened. But the ideology of anti-racism is equally anomalous, since the entirety of human history points to kindredness of one sort or another as being crucial. It is naïve, Utopian, and ultimately destructive of traditional societies to unnaturally demand perfect egalitarianism. It is no less Utopian than Marx crusading against class. This is where the paleos get it right and the neos get it oh so wrong. And it is why it is absolutely true that neos are of the left.

Actually, given the historic animosities of ethnicities and race, the South managed to incorporate its freed Blacks in a relatively admirable way. Where are Blacks more at home and a part of the organic community, the South or Detroit where many free Southern blacks migrated for work?

I have been honest and I hope thoughtful. I would appreciate it if others would be likewise. I have been honest and I hope thoughtful. I would appreciate it if others would be as well. This Country desperately needs people willing to honestly discuss these issues without someone making snide comments about the "Slave Power" or other such nonsense.


I am not saying that the motive of a majority, or anything close to a majority, of the Army of Northern Virginia was to spread slavery.

That was the motive of the Southern elites who actually voted for secession and intended the war.

Which cultural difference could not survive in the Union, and was so important that it was worth half a million dead?

Why John, you are sounding more Marxist every day. Capitalist pigs inciting the stupid proletariat? Using the lumpenproletariat as a status tool to keep the unwashed mountaineers in line (and in the ranks). Very materialistic (and cynical).

Since you threw Gallagher in my face a while back, let me do the same. You should read Gary Gallagher’s The Confederate War. Both you and Ed, who buy into this "elitist model" of secession, need a serious corrective. Glad to be of service.

So, claiming that people are capable of being duped makes one a Marxist?

I want to see if I understand some of you correctly. You claim that the "neocons" (and I don’t know if I’m one of those or not) are not true conservatives because they deny the Left’s charge that the Founders beleived in racial inequality. If I’m reading you right, the correct response to the charge is essentially this: "Yup, you’re right--they didn’t believe whites and blacks are equal, and they were absolutely right in doing so, because they’re not equal." So, are you telling us that to be a conservative means to believe that whites are by nature superior to blacks? I just want to make sure I understand this.

This remarkable thread has been illuminating. It has, for example, induced me to become more aware of the vast Internet resources available that argue the positions, including the legal positions, contrary to my own.

Now then. We can assume that all of this historical and legal mobilization has a political point: that the "paleos" from whom we have heard wish to distinguish themselves from the "neos" and the Straussians for some contemporary purpose. What is that?

So there was "racism" in the South because that is where the races co-existed. Had there been large numbers of blacks in Vermont (had Vermont been where the cotton grew) for example, there would have been "racism" there. Anyone who denies that is a naive fool or involved in intentional distortion. In New York, for example, the White ethnics couldn’t even get along (al la Gangs of New York.) So I guess they were guilty of "etnicism."

In fact, it took years for Anglo-Saxons even to regard the Irish (let alone the Germans, Italians, Jews, etc.) as white! Yet over time these groups recognized the benefit of treating each other as equals--in other words, they came to recognize that their "ethnicism" had been a mistake. We’re apparently still waiting for some to recognize that racism is, too.

Oh, yes indeed, Red, I was trying to censor John Moser. (?? insert big eye roll here)

Speaking of John Moser though...John, have you always been reluctant to identify yourself as a neocon, or has that reluctance increased over the last few years? (serious question)

And lastly, I wasn’t aware that the neocons took a position on the founder’s views on racial in/equality. Any book referrals on that?

In all honesty, John, you can’t extrapolate from the experiences of white ethnics in America. The current situation involves groups that are MUCH farther apart in terms of "social distance." Now, if we look at the experiences around the world involving people of different colors, faiths, and languages, it just isn’t so rosy. For instance, in Latin America, the whiter you are (Spanish/Portugeuse...even some German, Frence and Italian farther South) the better off you are. Those people have micro-gradations of social status based on group/color. Moreover, many don’t realize that caste and color are correlated in Northern India. There are many more examples, while happy relations are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Now before you call me any names, please realize that all I’m saying is that people who are very different from one another have a much harder time "melting." And...Mr. Phillips is correct...the North is more segregated than the South...that’s demonstrable. Why? Because whites & blacks have always lived in close proximity in the South (which explains their very overt racism), whereas Northerners simply ghettoized black immigrants between the world wars. The distance was maintained in either manner, but the Northern ’method’ was far more hypocritical (gee, go figure!).

Moreover, being a professional historian (or is it Political Scientist?), you certainly have read Fogel and Engerman’s Time on the Cross. If we are to demonize slavery (as practiced), why shouldn’t we also demonize industrial capitalism (as practiced) in the North using immigrant labor (indeed, who of us hasn’t read Sinclair Lewis and his ilk?). Self-ownership isn’t very useful when you have no choices.

But tell me, John, does caring about one’s own group and advocating its welfare automatically make one a racist? If so, I guess I am one (and so are most black folks, and most Hispanic folks, and most Asian folks). If, on the other hand, racial hatred is required, then I am certainly NOT a racist, and many Southerners I’ve met who dislike Lincoln would abhor any return to slavery or other form of racial subjugation. Of course, that does NOT mean most of us are willing to relinquish hard-won advantages out of misplaced guilt. For most on the Left, that alone makes me a racist, but their worldview is twisted. As Margaret Thatcher used to say, "The facts of life are conservative."

Mr. Moser, the recognition of how things were in the past must then temper judgments made about people in the past instead of applying modern standards retrospectively. The tendency to look down on other ethnicities/races or to be mean and violent to them is not an endearing aspect of man’s nature, and if we can move past that with time then good. But the tendency to fear/distrust the other is as old as humanity, and it is the mirror image of the instinct to prefer ones own. The protective value of this instinct is obvious, and preferring one’s own is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it may well be a positive moral good, in the same way that favoring one’s own child over the child of a stranger is an expected norm. The desire to be governed by one’s own is actually protective against invasion, occupation, tyranny, and homogenization. Most secession movements are based on ethnicities/culture/language not ideology. (Basques, Flemish, Quebec, etc.)

The problem with the doctrine of anti-racism is that it not only condemns the negative aspects of mistreating others, it can not tolerate the other aspects either. One must dogmatically take the counter intuitive and unnatural position that everyone must be treated entirely equally. To do otherwise would be "unfair" and "unjust." Favoritism of any sort is not allowed. And since favoring ones own is such an inherently natural idea, it must be brutally enforced with the same kind of vilification and rancor that has sometimes been displayed here. And not only must a person have an absence of actual personal taint, they must mouth acceptance of the myth. Your question in #82 (it was really more like a dare) is an excellent case in point. But this sort of slavish devotion to equality is a fundamental feature of the left.

For example, if the residents of China Town want to maintain the integrity of China Town and refuse to sell or rent to any non-Chinese then so be it. It may be "unfair" but it is necessary for the long term preservation of their community. Now of course this does happen in practice, but it is illegal. But we all know the dogma of anti-racism doesn’t really care about China Town. In fact, many would think that it is quaint. The doctrine in reality only applies to Whites (and Christians) because we are the historic oppressors who must be made to pay. So what is Ok for the Chinese goose is not good for the White gander.

Here is what Jim Kalb says. "Anti-racism is not at all middle-of-the-road, although resistance to it is thought extremist. Its principle is not live-and-let-live but eradication of the universal practice of ordering life by reference to feelings of extended kinship. On the colorblind reading of civil rights law that is the most conservative view now tolerated, it is illegal to treat ethnicity as relevant to social relations that matter. More advanced readings of the law, that recognize the continuing power of ethnic ties, call for government to equalize advantages by suppressing ethnicity in the case of whites and enhancing it for others. It is simply assumed that government can carry out such a program fairly and effectively and that men will accept it indefinitely."

Here is the link to the whole article. Well worth a read.

Modern conservatives have bought into this ideology as thoroughly as the left, but only recently so. Many use it in a defensive way to prove they aren’t one of those evil conservatives. I say it is shameful pandering to the left so as not to fall out of good graces.

I can’t believe how this thread has soldiered on. The whole point seems moot: Republicans were more than willing to allow the South slavery before the war, and more than willing to allow them white supremacy after Reconstruction. The only thing they would not budge on was the only thing worth having: independence.

Alexander Stephens was a kook. He probably did more than any other Confederate official to cost the South its independence. He did not cooperate in the war effort, and his Cornerstone speech was vicious demagogery. Read Jefferson Davis’s Farewell Address in the Senate or either of his innaugurals and you will see that the man who led the War for Southern Independence (rather than theman who hindered it from behind the scenes) never once repudiated the Declaration.

Racism is a sick cancer on the body politic. Lincoln should have spoke out against it. He could have started by working for the elimination of that provision in the Illinois Constitution that forbade the immigration of free blacks.

Unreconstructed, your last post was quite thoughtful. I wish more people would give this issue the thought you obviously have.

I still wish I knew the answer to #84.

This thread was basically dedicated to the proposition that all conservatives (unreconstructed or not) are created equal. Julie Ponzi (and unknown others of the Claremont/Ashland Axis) would clearly reject "unreconstructed" types, while a confederation of redneck yokels (myself included) doubt the conservative credentials of anyone who would write out such people.

I’m not sure that answers your question, Steve, but this thread was not meant as a manifesto of the paleo-conservative/neo-confederate creed. Since I don’t really fit any of those pigeon holes, I’ll have to yield to others to answer those deeper questions.

When a neoconservative belittles General Lee I get just as angry as when a hard-core leftist belittles George Washington. For me, the most salient difference between the two is that the former lost and the latter won. I just wish Republicans could find a way to be conservative without constantly gloating about the late unpleasantness. If they keep it up you might see a few more conservative Democrats taking back seats in the House and Senate.

Look, I’m not interested in purging anybody from the conservative movement--and I say this as one who has been targeted for purging in the past. As you’ll recall, I actually indicated a preference for Webb over Allen. In the end party identification is a lot less important to me than how someone votes. And as David Frisk has pointed out elsewhere, secession isn’t anywhere on the political agenda.

An adequate response to dain’s comment #87 would take a book, but I’ll simply say this. Yes, obviously preference for one’s own is natural, and I find it unlikely that any of us will ever reach a point where we won’t favor members of our own family over those who aren’t related to us. However, the whole trend of civilization--particularly Western Civilization, with its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition--has been to take us away from what is purely natural (what is, for instance, less natural than wearing clothes?). In our primitive state we regarded anyone who was not a family member as an enemy; the whole subsequent history of our civilization has involved a widening of the scope of human sympathies, to the point that we actually send millions of dollars to help the victims of a tsunami on the other side of the world. It’s certainly true that every culture has practiced slavery, racial and religious intolerance, etc. I celebrate the Western tradition because we were the first to say that such things are wrong.

Dain, you and others seem to suggest that a colorblind society is impossible. I say that it has never been seriously attempted, and this is mostly the fault of the Left. No sooner had white supremacy been discredited than we began to hear demands for special treatment for minorities. I am perfectly comfortable rejecting both segregation and affirmative action.

And yes, dain, I recognize that northerners hardly have an exemplary record in this respect--my goal was never to demonize the South, or hold up my fellow Yankees as paragons of virtue. Nor was it my purpose--or that of any serious historian--to try to canonize Abraham Lincoln. It may be Harry Jaffa’s goal, but I haven’t read him. From what I understand, his views on the Civil War are closer to my own than those of Tom DiLorenzo, but neither is a historian, and I am much more likely to trust the work of historians. On balance my sympathies lay with the North in the Civil War, not because the North had no flaws, but because I believe that a free society is morally superior to one based on slavery. The argument that, because there was no racial equality in the North, northerners had no right to fight slavery, is fundamentally similar to the claim of Henry Wallace in the late 1940s--that because there was poverty, racism, etc. in America, the U.S. had no moral right to fight communism.

In response to Craig’s comment in #86: to my knowledge I have never identified myself as a neocon (let alone a Straussian). I used to consider myself a libertarian (small "l"--never joined the party), but I stopped after 9/11, when I encountered too many libertarians who were parroting the Noam Chomsky line that the attacks were a rational response to U.S. "imperialism" in the Middle East. I suppose that, if you need a label for me, "classical liberal" or "Old Whig" (Hayek’s preferred term) is as good as any.

Anyway, I’m done with this argument--it’s been kind of fun, but it has absorbed too much of my time as it is. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

John Moser - I’m with you in being finished. But first, just this: you ought to read Jaffa. He does not try to "canonize" Lincoln, but he does take his thinking (and Douglas’ and, in the sequel, Calhoun’s) very seriously. It is an extraordinarily political book, and, published in 1958 I think, it was prompted by the mistakes and tin ears of a couple generations of historians.

Interesting thread... for the record I like Jaffa.

This is an important issue that I addressed six years ago in the pages of the Washington Times and for the Claremont Institute site--"The Case Against Secession." Those who are interested can find the essay at:

’When the Neo-Confederates and their libertarian friends make Lincoln out to be a scoundrel who plunged America into an avoidable war, they ignore the fact that his views on Union and the nature of republican government differed not at all from those of such luminaries as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Daniel Webster. They also ignore the practical reasons why the president of the United States could not permit the Union to be torn asunder. Far from avoiding war, the breakup of the Union would have meant perpetual conflict on the North American continent.

’The most comprehensive articulation of the view that Southern secession was a legitimate constitutional act is found in A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States, written by Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, published shortly after the war. A Constitutional View purports to be a comprehensive treatment of American constitutional history. But its comprehensiveness is illusory. It soon dissolves into a hash of selective evidence and sleight of hand whereby the natural right to revolution embodied in the Declaration of Independence is transformed into a constitutional right to destroy the Constitution. A Constitutional View is, alas, another refrain in a song composed and performed by John C. Calhoun and the South Carolina nullifiers.

’...there can be no constitutional process that presents a state majority to lawfully nullify the acts of the federal Union within the boundaries of its delegated powers. There can be, in other words, no right to destroy the Constitution. So how could Stephens make the claim that the right of secession had been widely accepted before 1860? Only by conflating the natural right of revolution with the supposed constitutional right of secession.

’For instance, Stephens invokes none other than Abraham Lincoln to support his thesis regarding the right of secession. He cites Lincoln’s assertion in a speech of January 12, 1848, that

’any people, any where, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing Government, and form a new one that suits them better…Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.
But Stephens is being disingenuous. Lincoln is not invoking a constitutional right to destroy the Union but the natural right of revolution, an inalienable right clearly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln never denied this right. As he said in his First Inaugural of 1861. "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." But the people’s right to revolution is in tension with the president’s constitutional "duty…to administer the present government, as it came into his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor."

’Again, Lincoln was merely reiterating the commonly accepted political opinions of his predecessors. In the aforementioned "Proclamation to the People of South Carolina," Jackson said, "secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right is confounding the meaning of terms…." (emphasis added). But despite claiming to be the true heirs of the American Founding, the seceding states never invoked the right of revolution that Jackson, Webster, Lincoln, and others acknowledged. Why not?

’The main reason was that while the Founders understood the right of revolution to be an inalienable natural right of individuals antecedent to political society, Calhoun, the architect of the theory of State sovereignty used to justify secession expressly repudiated the idea of individual inalienable natural rights. Calhoun dismissed the fundamental idea of the American Founding — that "all men are created equal" — as the "most false and dangerous of all political errors." Given the large slave population of the South, this denial of the inalienable natural rights of individuals, including the right of revolution, was no doubt prudent.

’Secession constitutes a repudiation of republican government as understood by the Founders. For Calhoun, sovereignty was not a characteristic of individuals, but of collective political bodies. Individual rights, such as they were, were prescriptive, not natural. If Calhoun was right, then the Founders were wrong.’

I believe my argument still holds. I have yet to find any reference during the ratification debates to a "constitutional right to secession" as opposed to a "right of revolution

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