Constitution or Union? Why the Idea of the Confederacy is Crucial to American Liberty
Large corporations sometimes clean up their balance sheets by spinning off a subsidiary to which they assign unwanted operations or debts. In a real sense., the dominant interpreters of American history have used the Confederacy as their undesireable historical subsidiary, to which they have assigned antiquated concepts such as slavery, disunion, and states rights. By "spinning off" the Confederacy, they are able to purify and transform the United States into a modern and progressive social democracy. It is very useful in this interpretation to package the evil of slavery with the other concepts. This helps to taint these ideas and prevent close examination of their worth. But their efforts are only succesful if one accepts the superficial view of history taught in public school "social studies" classes or presented by the all pervasive supporters of the current American regime. In these presentations, much of the great intellectual foundation of the early republic, such as the Federalist papers and their anti-federalist counterparts, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, and the writings of John C. Calhoun, such as his Disquisition on Government, Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the Fort Hill address, are ignored in a flagrant sin of omission. Of course. most people do accept this superficial treatment, and so the campaign is very effective.
So why does it matter? Why spend intellectual capital on arguing the rectitude of the Confederate cause 140 years after Appomatox? Many would argue with justification that if you are arguing for liberty, you encounter much opposition by supporting the confederate cause, and it would be more expedient to ignore it. But I can make a stronger case that the constitutional issues surrounding the secession of the southern states, Lincoln's destructive and brutal supression of secession, and reconstruction policies and constitutional amendments, are so fundamental to understanding the erosion of liberty and expansion of federal power, that they cannot be ignored. The other facet of this argument is the Lincoln myth. The metamorphosis of a shrewd partisan operative into a national demigod sanctified violation of the constitution as an acceptable expedient. The Union is more important than the Constitution. If the great and good Abe Lincoln did it, it must be right. For example, I saw former New York governor Mario Cuomo defending a present day action of questionable constitutionality by referring to Lincoln's expedient violations of the same. If Lincoln's "saving the union" and "freeing the slaves" can justify the violations of the constitution, that gives a pass to later Presidents, congresses, and federal courts to do the same. If Lincoln and the Union cause in the War for Southern Independence are axiomatically right, then all arguments for limited federal government and strict adherence to the constitution will eventually fail. Those of us who believe that the constitutional compact of limited government is the essential characteristic of American liberty realize that freedom is not guaranteed by a taxing, regulating, and warring government. It is guaranteed by the ability to "just say no" to such a government though nullification or secession. And a vigorous defense of the Confederate cause as among the purest expressions of true American liberty and patriotism is essential. This will not be easy and will engender ferocious opposition. We live in an America where even so-called conservatives promote the Pledge of Allegiance, a loyalty oath written by a 19th century socialist, swearing an oath to "one nation, indivisible" as the guarantor of "liberty and justice for all". This "my country, right or wrong" mentality would have been alien to the founding fathers who saw the constitution as a contract beween the states, not a sacred blood oath binding one to obedience to a national regime. Modern day liberals and conservatives both promote the use of federal force and confiscation to achieve their goals, they merely disagree on the details. In the final analysis, it is a question of the primacy of Constitution or Union. Do constitutional limits on government trump a desire to preserve "Union" at all costs? Or does the need to preserve the "Union", i.e., the central government, trump constitutional guarantees of liberty? There is little question as to where the first American patriots would stand.