"But each state, having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute, jointly with the other states, a single nation, cannot, from that period, possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league but destroys the unity of a nation;"--Andrew Jackson: (1767?-1845), American General and Politician: Reply to South Carolina's Ordinance of Nullification; 1833.
Professor Thomas Farrell at the University of Minnesota at Duluth sent me an e-mail after reading my article "The Children of Cain," challenging me to answer Mr. Buchanan's article in Human Events, "The New Intolerance," without any epigrams, while keeping it under 1000 words.
Here is that answer. The original was 975 words, 1038 with President Jackson's epigram which is the source of the article's title. In order to make this acceptable for the editorial staff, I--because I am an autodidact--am going to have to add almost two pages to this article, and lead them through its arguments point by point. This is because I propose personal ideas and theories that I have been developing for thirty plus years, concerning American History from the Missouri Compromise to the Atomic Age.
The real cause of the Civil War was the clash between two diametrically opposed economic systems. The first of these was the South's: which was a large scale, agrarian system; based upon large numbers of slaves doing the majority of the work on huge plantations owned by aristocratic families who ruled their individual states to please themselves. A Roman nobleman with his latifundia from the First Century B.C.E., would not have felt out of place in the antebellum South. It was a system where the poor whites were very much dependent on patronage from the aristocrats or good luck for survival.
The first thirty years of the Nineteenth Century saw few plantations outside of the borders of the original Thirteen States south of Maryland. The large scale development of giant plantations west of the Appalachians awaited two important developments. The first of these was Andrew Jackson forcing the Cherokee and other tribes off of their ancestral lands onto the "Trail of Tears" to what is now Oklahoma. The second of these was the discovery of gold in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama in the 1830's.
The second of these economic systems was the North's: an industrial system just out of its infancy, well on its way to becoming the economic colossus that would dominate the world in less than a century. It repeated the mistakes of Dickens' England and Marx's Europe over the next seventy years, watching working men and women reduced to virtual bondage as the robber barons and proto-Fascists of the Gilded and Jazz Ages exploited them for their own gain. Names like Samuel Gompers, Joe Hill, Big Bill Haywood, Eugene V. Debs, and places like Haymarket, Homestead, Pullman and Ludlow came into common usage among America's workers.
It was the past against the future; the agrarian aristocracy against the industrial oligarchs; for dominion over a nation. The expected battle between Jefferson's yeoman farmers and Hamilton's mercantilist traders had been decided two decades before the Civil War. Both sides had lost. The farmers had lost to the plantation system as they had in the Roman Republic two millennia before. The mercantilists had lost to the industrialist class that rose with the arrival of the factories of the Industrial Revolution. No one in America noticed it at the time: the first full expression of manifest destiny, the War with Mexico, the subsequent annexation of Texas and California, and the gold rush to California had hidden this denouement from public view. It was as quiet a slipping away from mortal awareness as any pair of contested ideas in history.
The combat phase of the Civil War from 1861-65 had two distinct phases: before the Emancipation Proclamation and after. When President Lincoln issued the Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the war to reunite the Union became a moral crusade to end slavery as well, forestalling British and French intervention forever. The Proclamation only affected those areas still under control of the Confederacy, so had no effect on the Union's slave holding states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware. Slaves in those states had to wait for the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865 for their de jure emancipation.
As Douglas A. Blackmon pointed out in his book, Slavery by Another Name, emancipation under the law did not mean emancipation in fact. The second chapter of the Civil War, saw the Union reunited, but the lot of the supposed ex-slaves little improved. Sharecropping and tenant farming had succeeded actual slave holding, but for the blacks in the South there was little difference. Judge Lynch walked hand in hand with Jim Crow, especially after the Supreme Court gave Jim Crow formal sanction under Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Many black men were thrown into prison for long sentences on minor charges, where they died by the thousands in work details and chain gangs, primarily for the benefit of a resurgent Southern aristocracy. Most of the South was frozen, economically, socially, politically and technologically, in the 1870's.
President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal marked the beginning of the last chapter in the Civil War, where the Union finally achieved both of its goals: reunification with the South, and true emancipation for the African-American slaves. It also saw the first chapter of organized reaction against the reforms that arose from it. FDR and his successors using the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Second World War, Desegregation and the battle for Civil Rights, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society at long last broke the agrarian poverty that had held the South, both black and white, in its iron grip for a century. Sharecropping and tenant farming all but disappeared, electricity appeared throughout the rural South, and large scale industrial development finally made extensive inroads south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
But it was not simply the South that changed when FDR and the New Deal began the writing of the Civil War's final chapter. The application of the Fourteenth Amendment to the individual states, with regards to the Bill of Rights and segregation, should have ended any argument about the extent to which the states still held power under the Constitution, and in particular the limitations of the Tenth Amendment. The Civil War and the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment curtails the power of the states in favor of the rights of the individual for all time.
Initially the power of this Amendment was used to give rights where they do not belong: with the unnatural person of the corporation, at the expense of the individual. With FDR and the New Deal, the individual human being began to slowly establish precedence over his artificial counterpart, and a true degree of equal protection under the law began to be realized.
By 1969, the Supreme Court had extended most of the protections of the Bill of Rights to the individual when dealing with the states. Two of FDR's appointees as Justices, Hugo Black and William Douglas, were at the forefront of this final application of the Fourteenth Amendment to the individual citizen.
Then came the organized reaction.
Lewis Powell, scion of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice, wrote a memorandum in 1971, laying out the conservative counter-revolution to overthrow the gains made by individuals in the New Deal, and re-establish the oligarchy of the Gilded Age. Although Justice Powell did not lay out as severe a system as has evolved in this country over the last thirty years; the ideas and actions of men like Milton Friedman, Jack Welch, and David Stockman--among others--have taken it further than anyone would have thought possible.
Some feel that the revival of the ghost of the Confederacy started when Ronald Reagan opened his Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered and buried in an earthen dam by the KKK less than twenty years before. Others think it started when Denver radio host Alan Berg was murdered in his driveway in June, 1984 by white supremacists. Still others think it was when David Duke announced the formation of a more urbane, sophisticated KKK in the early 1980's.
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