Skip to comments.Today in History....A Fateful time
Posted on 12/20/2018 8:03:30 AM PST by PeaRidge
December 20, 1860 A Fateful Day
"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution." --James Madison, Federalist No. 39
The collision of political thought manifested in the debates at the time of the formation of the Union, warned about by Washington in his farewell address, as well as by Calhoun and Jefferson Davis, and manifested in the continued sectional frictions for decades, had arrived.
Over many years earlier, the concepts on the relative rights of the citizen versus his government had been thoroughly debated by many philosophers. Many of the thoughts of the Founding Fathers were based on these debates.
One important philosopher of the period was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He had been born in Switzerland, and later migrated to Paris. According to his works, in the state of nature, man is prone to be in frequent competition with his fellow men. Because he can be more successful facing threats by joining with other men, he has the impetus to do so. He joins together with his fellow men to form the collective human presence known as "society."
"The Social Contract" is the "compact" agreed to among men that sets the conditions for membership in society.
Another competing influential philosopher, John Locke was an Oxford scholar, physician, political operative, economist as well as being one of the great philosophers of the early eighteenth century.
Locke's Two Treatises of Civil Government presented a theory of natural law and natural rights which he used to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate civil governments, and to argue for the legitimacy of revolt against tyrannical governments.
Thus, there were vast differences between Rousseau and Locke's social contract theories. It came down to Locke believing that people retain their individual interests within the social contract (and are entitled to leave if those interests aren't being served), while Rousseau believes that having agreed to join a community, you should submit your individual desires to the general will.
It was that tension between individual and community that underpinned debate between the sections. However, when it became clear that economic competition was about to occur, the tension grew much worse.
At this time in the South, cultural and political thinking reflected the model of Locke which was manifested in the Jeffersonian influence of the United States Constitution. This was in direct conflict to the Republican ideology, particularly as it related to Northeastern states preoccupation with industrialization and using the US Treasury to fund infrastructure improvements and interstate transportation.
Therefore, with the election of the Republicans to power, and the impending restructuring of Congressional apportionment to their advantage, Southern leaders saw in secession a protection of their rights, economy, property, and survival as a culture.
12/20/1860 Two extremely important events occurred on this day.
First, in Springfield, Thurlow Weed met with Lincoln regarding the Crittenden Compromise. Lincoln refused point-blank to support the compromise, and put this refusal in writing.
With this act, Seward and other influential Republicans saw the intent of the new President, and fell in line with him to oppose the compromise. This produced a solid alignment of Republicans in Congress against the compromise. The bill continued to be discussed for months.
The point that concerned Lincoln was the inclusion of the right to slavery in the territories. He wrote to a Republican associate, Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery.
Lincolns unilateral refusal of the proposal, and his encouragement of Republican leaders to support that position caused the peace proposal to collapse.
Second, South Carolina seceded. South Carolina Governor Pickens issued a proclamation,
"announcing the repeal, December 20th, 1860, by the good people of South Carolina," of the Ordinance of May 23rd, 1788, and "the dissolution of the union between the State of South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America,"
and proclaimed to the world "that the State of South Carolina is, as she has a right to be, a separate, sovereign, free and independent State, and, as such, has a right to levy war, or covenants, and to do all acts whatsoever that rightfully appertain to a free and independent State."
"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
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