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Two Aristocracies

Thursday, October 13, 2016 20:41
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Editor’s note: This piece was originally printed as an unsigned piece in DeBow’s Review in 1866. The author had already recognized that the deal struck between Midwestern farmers and Northeastern merchants would in short order ruin agriculture and by default a more Jeffersonian economy in the “farm belt” of America. His call for Southern and Midwestern farmers to unite against the “moneyed aristocracy” predates the Populist revolt of the 1880s and finds its intellectual origins in the writings of Jefferson and John Taylor of Caroline. More than anything, it is both an honest review of antebellum and early postbellum American history and of the problems generated by the Northern victory in the War. The massive expansion of the Yankee Leviathan during Reconstruction would not have been possible before Reconstruction.

The term Aristocracy is usually considered only to be strictly applicable to an hereditary nobility. To a class of men entitled to govern, not because of superior wisdom or merit of any kind, nor of superior wealth, but by virtue of blood or descent. Yet the advocates of such an aristocracy contend with great force of argument and powerful array of facts and authorities, that an aristocracy of blood, founded, as such aristocracies always are, on the courage, bearing, wisdom, and wealth of its original members, will furnish better and far safer rulers, than the people at large would ever select.

Practically, this difference of opinion between the Democratic and Aristocratic theories of government seems compromised in Europe, by leaving the chief executive department of government to be filled on the principle of hereditary aristocracy of blood, whilst most of the inferior offices, especially the legislative, shall be selected for presumed merit, either directly or indirectly, by the people.

Such an aristocracy as this has never existed in our America; and no institution is so odious to us, nor so little understood by us.

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