Editor’s Note: This is a work in progress.
Jeremy Carl has this historical analogy backwards.
It is Joe Biden and the Democrats who are the true heirs of Abraham Lincoln and what was known at the time as “Black Republicanism.” Then as now, the South was the conservative section of the Union which had placed its faith in the Constitution and it was the urban East that was full of power crazed Radical Republicans and abolitionists fired by the religious zealotry of the Second Great Awakening who were hell bent on overturning the existing social order to usher in the millennium.
Secession was a reactionary movement. It was triggered by the election of the “Black Republican” Abraham Lincoln and the collapse of faith among conservatives in the Constitution. The final straw was John Brown’s raid on the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and his celebration as a martyr in the North. It led to a tsunami of revulsion that swept across the Deep South which swept away the Union. It was based on the realization that these people were willing to openly support genocide to get their way.
It was Southerners who fought for the things that conservatives care about: their understanding of the nature of the constitutional compact which they called Free Government, loyalty to their own people, their states, their families, homes and communities. Southerners fought for their own liberty. The Confederate understanding of the conflict was that slavery was the “incident” or “occasion” of the war. It was the issue which at that time triggered a deeper clash over rival worldviews and values.
“It was appropriate that news of the Democrats’ plans to pack the Supreme Court broke in April, just a couple days after the 160th anniversary of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the shots that began the Civil War.
Unlike President James Buchanan, who dithered in responding to obvious Confederate aggression, the newly inaugurated Abraham Lincoln acted decisively upon taking office. He informed South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens that he would be resupplying the fort, forcing South Carolina’s hand. Lincoln’s actions did not start the war—they made it clear that war was already underway. From that point on, Americans, even those who had previously wished to ignore what was staring them in the face, were awakened to the reality of their situation.
The dispute between Lincoln and Pickens that led to the attack on Fort Sumter was not simply a political struggle over who should control the regime but a larger political struggle over which regime it would be. Ultimately, it was a question of whether we would be a nation for free citizens or one that held men and women in bondage.
Today’s Republicans, like Lincoln, find themselves in a regime-level conflict with the Democrats. The Democrats are firing again and again on our Constitutional order, our history, and our traditions—our metaphorical Fort Sumter, if you will—but unlike our forebear Lincoln, our elected leadership seems either to be aiding the insurgent Left or, at best, feebly invoking constitutional provisions and principles, as if our opponents have shown that their behavior can be in any way constrained by these things. We need to channel the spirit of Lincoln rather than Buchanan to win this struggle.
This does not mean we should forgo our work within the current system, but we must acknowledge that whether we wish it to or not, the regime as constituted may not long endure in its current form, and we must prepare ourselves accordingly. …”
There was no bigger secessionist in the South than Robert Barnwell Rhett. This is how he saw the conflict in his own words:
“The people of the reunited States – South and North – are the heaviest taxed civilized People in the world; and their Government, one of the most despotic and corrupt, staining its annals. Does not hypocrisy and contempt, usually go together? And will the echoes of Revolution throughout the land ever die away, until the South is independent; or the South is free?” (from his memoir)
“A political union can only exist, between independent political entities. Such was the Union constituted by the Constitution of the United States, “between the States.” But this Union – a Union of independent political entities – a Union of free-will and choice -, is gone; and the connexion now existing themselves what were formerly States, is no union at all; but is the operation of the different parts of a central consolidated power, held together by fear and force.” (from his memoir)
“No one can understand the nature of a Consolidated Government, without perceiving, that it is only the first step to Imperialism.” (from his memoir)
“Since the foundation of free governments, no constitution has been ever preserved by the mere faith of those who had power over it; and it has been preserved only by the resistance of those who are mainly interested in its limitations. Men – not inanimate parchments – living men, not dead abstractions – have enforced free governments.” (1860)
“The Government is not a Government whose powers “will be exercised mostly in time of war.” Defense against foreign nations is not its characteristic – but internal aggression. It is a sectional despotism. Mr. Madison being the witness, the Constitution of the United States, is an utter failure.” (1860)
“If our rights are victorious in the next Presidential election, we may consider it as a kind augury of a more auspicious future. If they are overthrown, let this election be the last contest between the North and South; and the long, weary night of our dishonor and humiliation be dispersed at last, by the glorious day-spring of a Southern confederacy.” (1859)
“To submit to the encroachments of this vulgar crew of plunderers and fanatics, is a degradation no other free people than the people of the South ever endured; but to submit to their rule will be the desperation of a weak and conquered race – conquered without a fight.” (1859)
“It has been in vain, that those in the North who respect the constitution and the rights of the South, have proclaimed, from time to time, that the South would resist, and the Union be dissolved. We have justified the contempt of our enemies; not the good opinion of our friends. The South has not resisted. The Union is not dissolved; and our aggressors, triumphing in our submission, hold place and power for our harassment, and their exaltation and aggrandizement.” (1859)
“Is not a whole life of endurance of unconstitutional oppression, enough for any wisdom in delay – too much, for safety or honor? How long shall we stand, the resistless and despised victims of Northern fanaticism and rapacity? How long shall we cry “wait!” whilst the North advances in power and insolence; and each successive year brings her nearer to the consummation of her policy of domination over us, and over this continent?” (1859)
“I have counselled but one policy to the South; yield not one inch, but meet the question here and elsewhere with firm, uncompromising, and unflinching resistance.” (1847)
“The spirit which yields one position will yield another, until at length, self-respect and self-confidence is gone, and a conscious degradation prepares the people to be the victims of corrupt and traitorous demagogues.”(1847)
“War is always an enormous crime, often on both sides – always on one.” (1846)
“The Blufton Boys have been silenced, not subdued… The fire is not extinguished; it smolders beneath, and will burst forth in another glorious flame that shall overrun the State and place her light again as of old, upon the watch tower of freedom.” (1845)
“I know that there is no danger in our people being too hot. The danger is the other way. I will keep up the fire, if like a lost hunter in a prairie, I have to kindle it alone, with my gun flint, and watch by the blaze, rifle in hand to keep off the wolves.” (1845)
“My constituents have sent for me; and I go in a few days to meet them, and tell them a story of wrongs which their Fathers would have died rather than bear.” (1844)
“The only hope of the South is in resistance.” (1844)
“If you value your rights you must resist.” (1844)
“I fear, that there is no longer any hope or liberty for the South, under a Union, by which all self-government is taken away.”
“If we are true to ourselves, a glorious destiny awaits us, and the South will be a great, free and independent people!”
“The South must dissever itself from the rotten Northern element.”
“From the beginning of time, liberty has been acquired but at the price of blood, and that blood shed in revolution.”
“You are the vassals and slaves of a consolidated empire.”
“We have to deal with erring man.”
“Universal suffrage will give those who have no property, the absolute control of the property and legislation of the country… in all its horrors… the despotism of numbers may be the most terrible that can scourge a fallen people.”
“I am a nullifier and will never consent that more power should be given to this government than strictly belongs to it.”
“Do you tell me of “Union,” when I have seen the cannon of ships and fortresses pointed at your towns, and the insolent soldiery of an angry tyrant lording it in your streets? …I can not love, I will not praise that which, under the abused names of Union and liberty, attempts to inflict upon us every things that can curse and enslave the land.”
“The star-spangled banner no longer waves in triumph and glory for me. …If a Confederacy of the Southern States could now be obtained, should we not deem it a happy termination – happy beyond expectation, of our long struggle for our rights against oppression?”
“The Union must be dissolved under its present course of administration. It requires no conspiracy to destroy – no exertion on our part to drag it to its dissolution. It goes down with the inevitable weight of its own gravitation, into that dark abyss of anarchy and ruin, where all tyrannies have fallen.”
“If to think, to speak, to feel such sentiments as these, constitute me a disunionist and a traitor, according to the English language as now understood in Carolina, then gentlemen, I am a Disunionist! – I am a Traitor!”
“Give me disunion rather than a consolidated government. Aye – disunion, rather into a thousand fragments… Because under such a government I would be a slave – a fearful slave, ruled despotically by those who do not represent me… with every base and destructive passion of man bearing upon my shieldless destiny – love of domination – avarice – long rankling jealousy – and, worst of all, the fell spirit of bigotry, which would exult over my dwelling in flames, and my children given to slaughter.”
“From the commencement of the Government of the United States, the money power of the North, controlled the North, and hovered over the Government like a vulture seeking its prey.”
“I am a secessionist – I am a disunionist. Others may submit: I will not. I will secede, if I can, from this Union. I will test, for myself and for my children, whether South Carolina is a State or an humbled and degraded province, existing only at the mercy of an unscrupulous and fanatical tyranny.”
“The long, weary night of our humiliation, oppression and danger is passing away and the glorious dawn of a Southern Confederacy breaks on our view.”
“Be prepared to meet all the usual troubles and sacrifices of revolutions. For thirty-two years, have I followed the quarry. Behold! it at last, in sight! A few more bounds, and it falls – the Union falls; and with it falls, its faithless oppressions – its insulting agitations – its vulgar tyrannies and fanaticism. The bugle blast of our victory and redemption is on the wind; and the South will be safe and free.”
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