Saturday, December 31, 2005

Constitution or Union? Why the Idea of the Confederacy is Crucial to American Liberty

No symbol in so-called "polite, mainstream" America is more publicly reviled than that of the confederate battle cross. No public figure in any walk of American life could display confederate symbols without being savaged in the press and suffering significant career damage. In some circles, confederate symbolism probably ranks slightly above bestiality in terms of acceptability, although I am sure than in San Francisco, this order would be reversed. In the 2004 presidential campaign. Al Sharpton called the confederate flag "The American Swastika". This statement is remarkable. Remarkable because the Confederacy; a decentralized constitutional republic fighting a strictly defensive struggle against invasion, was the polar opposite of Nazi Germany, a completely centralized absolute dictatorship bent on military conquest. But even more remarkable is that not a single account in the mainstream press highlighted this inaccuracy. And even more remarkable, it is almost certain, had a major public figure or publication done so, they would have been severly attacked for it. Campaigns all across America have resulted in removing the battle flag from the state capitol in Columbia, a city burned to the ground by Sherman, removing the battle cross emblem from the Georgia state flag, and countless less publicized suppressions of confederate symbolism, such as the removal of the confederate flag from confederate soldiers' graves in Charlotte's Elmwood cemetery. The Confederacy, has in fact, been the victim of one of history's most succesful smear campaigns. Certainly, part is due to the old truism "the victors write the history" and much is due to heightened racial sensitivities in our current era, in which the Confederacy, which lasted 4 years, is seen as the principal villain in North American slavery, an institution which lasted more than 200 years in both north and south. But I believe there are more profound reasons for the extreme contempt heaped on the Confederacy. And these reasons strike at the very core of the reality behind the present day regime in the United States.
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.


Blogger Johnny Reb said...

Interesting blog. Keep up the good work.


Johnny Reb
Civil War

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A good read. I'm looking for info on the civil war and anything related to it.


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