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Sobran's:How Might Makes Right
Sobran's ^ | March, 7, 2002 | Joseph Sobran

Posted on 03/21/2002 9:58:54 AM PST by TEXICAN II

How Might Makes Right March 7, 2002

by Joe Sobran

Whatever they may say, most people assume that might makes right. Abstractly, they may consider this is shocking and cynical doctrine; yet in practice they live by it. In plain language, they go with the winners.

They take it for granted, for example, that the Civil War proved that the North was right and the South wrong: no state may constitutionally secede from the Union. All the war really proved was what wise men knew at the outset: that Northern industrial superiority was overwhelming. (If the South had won, most people would, with equal illogic, accept that as proof that the South was right.)

In ratifying the Constitution, the states voluntarily joined a confederated Union; they didn't give up the "sovereignty, freedom, and independence" they had retained under the Articles of Confederation. Such a radical change would have had to be explicit.

If secession was to be unconstitutional, the Constitution would have had to forbid it. It would also have had to provide some method of dealing with it if a state seceded anyway. It did neither.

Abraham Lincoln, in arguing against secession, had to invoke what he claimed as implied powers of the presidency. And in practice, he had to exercise clearly unconstitutional powers, such as making war without the consent of Congress. And when he won the war, he had to install puppet governments in the defeated states, in flagrant violation of the Federal Government's duty to guarantee each state a "republican form of government."

Lincoln himself all but admitted this. Contrary to his insistence that the Union cause was that of self- government -- "of the people, by the people, for the people," et cetera -- his actual postwar policy was to rig the situation in the South to prevent "the rebellious populations from overwhelming and outvoting the loyal minority."

So "the people" could have self-government, all right -- as long as they voted his way. Otherwise he would see to it that the minority was not outvoted. This was a novel idea of democracy. To such contortions was Lincoln driven by the principle that secession is unconstitutional.

The Constitution also requires the Federal Government to "protect [the states] against invasion"; it doesn't authorize it to invade them itself! Such a power would surely have been mentioned if the Framers had meant to prevent secession. Again Lincoln was forced to invent Federal authority -- and presidential authority -- where there was none.

The Constitution sounds great on paper. But how is the Federal Government to be prevented from exceeding its allotted powers?

Originally there were three safeguards.

First, there was the right of secession. Just as the states had seceded from the British Empire, a state could revoke the Federal Government's legal authority within its own borders. Lincoln's war crushed this right.

Second, the Senate of the United States represented the states, and would oppose any usurpation of the rights reserved to the states and denied to the Federal Government. But the Seventeenth Amendment virtually abolished the Senate by requiring the popular election of senators, ending their selection by the state legislatures. By being democratized, the Senate became a redundant institution, with no special constitutional function.

Third, of course, there were elections. The people could insist on constitutional government through the ballot box. They can still do this, in theory -- unless they are too ignorant, corrupt, or apathetic to demand that the Constitution be honored. Which, alas, has long been the case. Most Americans aren't the sort of citizens the Founding Fathers expected; they are contented serfs. Far from being active critics of government, they assume that its might makes it right.

Yes, in this old world might has always made right, but might often needs the assistance of plausible sophistry, of which Lincoln was a master. His awesome eloquence was matched by his willingness to suppress critics of his administration, and we easily forget that his four years in office were the darkest period for civil liberties in American history -- far worse than the so-called McCarthy Era.

How could a man who spoke so beautifully of "a new birth of freedom" be an enemy of freedom? In the same way, I suppose, that so many "freedom fighters," after they overthrow tyrants, turn out to be tyrants themselves.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/020307.shtml".

Copyright (c) 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer:

"SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write fran@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: constitution; federal; government; lincoln; power; ruleoflaw; sobran; warbetweenstates
A cautionary historical tale, examined in the light of logic, sure to offend & evoke hostility, from the lazy, the ignorant and the timid.
1 posted on 03/21/2002 9:58:54 AM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
Bump for Sobran!
2 posted on 03/21/2002 10:01:46 AM PST by Scholastic
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: sonofliberty
It is not for me to question anything Madison may have said, but IMHO, by the time of Ft.Sumpter, the question was not about a single state, nor was foreign meddling the big issue. The Federal Government could have moved for a settlement, with compensation for federal property seized, &etc.

But then, war is always so popular & competition in the government business is never popular.

4 posted on 03/21/2002 11:11:41 AM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
Aw, Shucks!
5 posted on 03/21/2002 11:30:05 AM PST by shuckmaster
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To: TEXICAN II
Very interesting, and certainly frustrating to those of us who wish for a better America. But in the end, I think it's just a bitter screed. We can't go back to the 1850's and change things.

I'd be interested to get opinions on what the world would look like if the South had won. Would we still be separate nations, or would a reunion have been inevitable? I seriously doubt slavery would have continued indefinitely, and the European antics of the 20th century would have placed unique pressures on both a Confederacy and a separate Union....One of many questions: Would two nuclear nations now occupy what is now the U.S.?

6 posted on 03/21/2002 11:40:21 AM PST by Mr. Bird
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To: shuckmaster
Well I guess so! You have a fresh recruit, sir!

One of my ancesters rode with Forrest-my Mother and Father had about 20 grandparents & uncles in various Confederate States. Some earlier Virginia & North Carolina ancestors were present at Yorktown ( one direct ancestor, Light Horse Harry L., later delivered a eulogy at Washington's funeral ). One uncle was at Ft.Sam Houston, in San Antonio, when he resigned his US Army commision, declined Command of the Union Army, before heading home to assume command of the Army of Virginia ( his younger sister Katherine was a Gr-Gr-Gr-Great Grandmother ).

Besides participants of the American Revolution & War of Northern Agression, my mother's most serious genes of true rebelion come from William Wallace.

Both parents had Grandparents in the Texas Revolution.

Personal skills include a natural capacity with both rifle & pistol-I was trained by the time I could hold the weapons. I can provide my own kit, horse and weapons.

Genetically, you see, I am one inherently disturbed individual & seriously impaired, but given my verbal skills, wonder if I might perhaps make a great G-2? I have some measure of the importance of intelligence-as I read that my Uncle's Army suffered greatly at Gettysburg for want of Stuart's intelligence. If selected, I shall be ever loyal & shall never fail you!

Even now, Sir, I await the fresh mail, with its promise of the proper code with which to enroll for your most urgent dispatches! Do not forget me! I shall serve in capacity you deem apropriate!

7 posted on 03/21/2002 12:18:24 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: Mr. Bird
I'd be interested to get opinions on what the world would look like if the South had won. Would we still be separate nations, or would a reunion have been inevitable? I seriously doubt slavery would have continued indefinitely, and the European antics of the 20th century would have placed unique pressures on both a Confederacy and a separate Union....One of many questions: Would two nuclear nations now occupy what is now the U.S.?

"If the South would have won we'd have had it made....
I'd probably run for President of the Southern States.

The day Elvis passed away would be a national holiday,
If the South would have won we'd have had it made."

Okay, maybe Hank Williams, Jr. isn't the best political analyst on this topic. I think we'd have stayed two nations, or more than two. With secession firmly established as a valid political strategy in both nations, either more states would split off, or the knowledge that they could would make other statesmen less inclined to push them. It would probably result in a decentralization of the federal governments of however many countries you eventually end up with.

As a side note, look what this libertarian web site had to say about the possibility of modern secession after the 200 election:
Breaking Up is Hard to Do

8 posted on 03/21/2002 12:23:39 PM PST by NovemberCharlie
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To: shuckmaster
Enrollment is now confirmed!
9 posted on 03/21/2002 12:28:18 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: Mr. Bird
If the South would have won, the individual northern states would have quickly recognized how much better off they would be as confederated free states & rebeled against Lincoln's federal tyranny also. Today, the government in Washington wouldn't be doing much more than their three intended jobs. Defending the borders from foreign invaders, insuring free trade between states, & delivering the mail.
10 posted on 03/21/2002 12:29:07 PM PST by shuckmaster
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To: NovemberCharlie
I guess that should be the 2000 election.
11 posted on 03/21/2002 12:29:58 PM PST by NovemberCharlie
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To: Mr. Bird
By every measure, slavery was not just on the wane, its end was only a question of time and method ( already debated by many legislators ) would have likely varied by state & perhaps even by county. The rest is pure speculation-but what if! Suppose two entirely different societies had been allowed to evolve!
12 posted on 03/21/2002 12:32:24 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: NovemberCharlie
No less an authority than Dr. Walter Williams ( the self proclaimed very handsome former King of the Department of Economics at Geo. Mason Univ ) has recently called for a divorce most civil-while that is still possible! He wrote a very serious column about this and it did not sound so very strange. That is scary.
13 posted on 03/21/2002 12:37:01 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
I think one reason it sounds a lot more normal nowadays is that the world has spent the last decade or so rearranging borders in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, etc., and so it becomes less of a shock to think of tinkering with our own borders.
14 posted on 03/21/2002 12:53:39 PM PST by NovemberCharlie
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To: TEXICAN II
Originally there were three safeguards.

Sobran is wrong: there were never three safeguards.

There was and is only one safeguard: that the general population of the U.S. behave in a manner conducive to the existence of a free society.

Only then can the elected leaders be expected to act in the best interests of the country, in accordance with the Constitution.

At the same time, the electorate is expected to hold their representatives accountable, and to protect their own rights, as well as the rights of others.

And finally, all people are expected to recognize and follow through upon their duties to society.

Sobran is engaged in a bit of Constitutional idolatry here. He expects that somehow a scrap of paper can act as a hedge against people who want to get around the constraints it embodies. Without the underlying moral concensus that created it, the Constitution is without meaning.

To understand what's going on, one has got to go back to moral first principles. In fact, one is pretty much required to go back to Christian first principles.

15 posted on 03/21/2002 12:59:18 PM PST by r9etb
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To: TEXICAN II
By every measure, slavery was not just on the wane, its end was only a question of time and method ( already debated by many legislators ) would have likely varied by state & perhaps even by county.

I would be very interested in hearing what you have to back up that claim. Can you show by any measure how slavery was on the wane in 1860? Can you show how it would have been possible under the confederate constitution that slavery could have varied by state, much less county?

16 posted on 03/21/2002 1:32:52 PM PST by Non-Sequitur
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To: r9etb
Even the great religions are not capable, of themselves, by their theological principles, from entirely preventing mis-behavior. The Constitution was a bit more enforceable to those of the several generations just recently removed from the period of its acceptance. Thus, our task, if it is possible, is to educate those not accustomed to following its structure and respecting its value, as perhaps the greatest political instrument of history.

If Mr. Sobran is so wrong, and rather doubt that he is, maybe you should tell him about his careless writing-I only brought it to the attention of more people. His web site invites reply.

17 posted on 03/21/2002 1:42:18 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: Non-Sequitur
As I told you on the "Black Historian Joining Confederate Heritage Group" thread, your great effort spent at fault-finding, I regard as a character flaw. Perhaps it is worse, maybe you resent the free speech of others, on the topics they choose? I have not, & shall not search threads for people with which to quibble, but then I am not like you, and I am grateful for that.

I shall not fill in the blank areas of your history education. Look it up, sir, if you wish to know.

18 posted on 03/21/2002 1:50:21 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
. Thus, our task, if it is possible, is to educate those not accustomed to following its structure and respecting its value, as perhaps the greatest political instrument of history.

But that's precisely the point, and precisely where Sobran misses the boat. If the people aren't accustomed, how are you going to make them accustomed? The answer is, you can't. They have to get there on their own.

There's a story about how, during the Viet Nam war, we sent a group of earnest young folks over to Saigon to help them craft a nice, new constitution. They argued, negotiated, and sweated amongst themselves, and it was by all accounts a thing of beauty.

Only problem was, it had absolutely no impact -- the moral values of Vietnamese people were different from those enshrined by the earnest Ivy-leaguers.

As for the Constitution being a great political instrument: it is. But only because it expresses the far greater moral fibre of the people who created it. The strength of the United States came not from the scrap of paper, but from the people who wrote it.

19 posted on 03/21/2002 2:04:26 PM PST by r9etb
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To: TEXICAN II
I shall not fill in the blank areas of your history education. Look it up, sir, if you wish to know.

I have. I can point out to how the slave population rose by over 20% between 1850 and 1860. I can point you to statistics which show that the southern plantation owners propered during that period like never before. I can also point you to statistics which show that the number of free blacks actually declined in a number of southern states, while growing everywhere else. Finally I can quote chapter and verse of the confederate constitution which shows that the document protected slavery throughout the south and safeguarded the importation of new slaves.

You make blanket statements without offering any evidence to support them, and when challenged on your claims you find that to be a character flaw in those who challenge you. Well I have a great deal of respect for your right of free speech and your right to say whatever you want. But I do have problems with false speech and I'm sorry if you are troubled by that. The easiest way to silence me would be to do the research and prove me wrong. Are you interested in doing that?

20 posted on 03/21/2002 2:07:03 PM PST by Non-Sequitur
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To: Non-Sequitur
Finally I can quote chapter and verse of the confederate constitution which shows that the document protected slavery throughout the south and safeguarded the importation of new slaves.

Constitution of the Confederate States, Article I.:

Sec. 9. (I) The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. You'll forgive me if I find it difficult to interpret this phrase as safeguarding the importation of new slaves, especially since the Confederates' secession would have made it easier for the US to outlaw slavery within its own borders, thus eventually rendering the exception meaningless.
21 posted on 03/21/2002 2:32:34 PM PST by NovemberCharlie
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To: NovemberCharlie
You overlook the obvious. Read it again:

The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

It's right there in black and white. The importation of slaves from the United States was specifically protected. At the time this was written there were 8 states in the United States that allowed slavery. Ending it in the U.S. would have been almost as difficult as ending it in the confederacy.

22 posted on 03/21/2002 2:48:51 PM PST by Non-Sequitur
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To: Non-Sequitur
I said only that slavery was in decline and at an end-I was given this conclusion by the very cost of the slaves and the value of the agricultural enterprise. The end of the system had been seriously entertained in the US Congress and state legislatures-whether to outlaw it outright, purchase the freedom of the slaves ( by buying the owners interest ), or some other scheme.

You are as a stray dog, wandering a neighborhood where your behavior makes you unwelcome, constantly barking insult. You suggest that I would justify or desire the system perptrated 200 years ago should have been continued. The implication is a false and cowardly attempt at insult. I really wonder what is the source of your displeasure-but only a little. It passes immediatly, when I regard your rudeness.

I do not wish to 'silence you'-I only wish to explain how I see you ( and as others may also )-as a rude, ignorant, and antagonistic pest, that seeks only to offend and aggravate people who have done you no harm, threatened none, ask you nothing, and were having a civil and pleasant conversation, not a contest of insult. I think it you who wishes to stifle and interrupt. Your sort seeks only to disrupt & distract, cause unpleasantness where ever you choose. So bark on-but be known for what you are-a petty twit whose only manner of discourse is that of an uncivilized boor. Your antics will gain no more of my attention.

23 posted on 03/21/2002 6:09:12 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: r9etb
Inded Sir, you are surely correct-we both chase the same result. Alexis de Tocqueville actually ran the quarry to ground-he said something on the order of, "America will cease to be good when its people do", or words to that effect. The problem is with today's citizen, not with the document.
24 posted on 03/21/2002 6:16:32 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
Is it so scary? Let us imagine an America of the year 2015, or so. There will be four major ethnic groups (whites, Hispanics, blacks, asians). Neither one will particularly like the other and would want to take America in different directions. Everyhting would be called into question, economic issues, the legal system, the medical system, foreign policy etc. At this point there would be little agreement on these issues and each group will not feel satisfied with the government, because it is not "their" government. Right now, the whites control everyhting because they have the bulk of the population. This will be less and less the case as time goes on. They will have to give up more and more ground, and they will not like it. The "minorities" will get tired of playing "second-fiddle" to the whites and want to make their "own" decisions, like the South did in 1860. What would be done in a situation like that? One of the reasons the Soviet Union broke up is because the Russian element of the population became less of a percentage overall and the minority percentage increased, making it much more difficult to keep the Soviet Union together. What would happen in a future America with a decrease in the percentage of the white population combined with a dramatic increase in the non-white percentage? Would America still stay together?
25 posted on 03/21/2002 6:23:10 PM PST by koba
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To: koba
Your reality is scary-scary for the implied violence that may occur. You are on the mark. Mr. Williams suggestion was really not so bad-a civil affair, worked out all legal & polite.
26 posted on 03/21/2002 6:57:20 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: koba
Actually, Mr. Buchanan's Decline of the West is the next paragraph here.
27 posted on 03/21/2002 7:02:31 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
Williams dosen't want to see the potential violence that can happen, and neither do I. I don't think you do either. In 1984 in India, I saw the results of ethnic violence...it wasn't pretty.

I don't know how America is going to go, but there is a potentially rocky future ahead.

28 posted on 03/21/2002 7:04:18 PM PST by koba
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To: TEXICAN II
Buchanan has a "gut-level" feeling about America. Like him or not, he's not one of those "gated-community" politicians, like Bush and Gore are. He fears for the future of America. America had one bloody civil war, I hope it dosen't have another.
29 posted on 03/21/2002 7:07:13 PM PST by koba
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To: koba
Actually, sir, we have ethnic violence here, today, every day. The media seeks to avoid recognition of this-it does not fit their agenda. Black on Black crime is the rule, sometimes it is Black on White, deliberatly, but far less common. Mexican criminals come here from mexico because they go where there is money-they make up one third of the prison population. Our Left is in a dither because the jails are running over with aliens from mexico and Blacks from America-ipso facto, we are racists & our criminal justice system is racist. The crime is, you see, not at all random. It surely is not yet a regular event of the mob variety-but that could come soon enough. Give us another major terror attack & there will be no safe place for the etnic group of the perpetrators.
30 posted on 03/21/2002 8:08:54 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
You're right. Today, blacks kill about four whites per day in inter-racial violence. (SEE "The Race War of Black Against White", Paul Sherwen, Sydney Morning Herald) (SEE "The Color of Crime) (SEE FBI Crime Files)

Blacks kill four whites every day, and these numbers were recorded from 1964. This amounts to over 1,000 whites per year killed by blacks. If you use 1965 as a starting point, you can easily see how over 40,000 whites were killed by blacks. This can be connsidered ethnic warfare.

This kind of ethnic warfare pales in comparison to potential ethnic warfare twenty years from now. This is why I feel that there is a strong possiblity that America may break apart, like the Soviet Union has done.

31 posted on 03/21/2002 8:17:43 PM PST by koba
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To: koba
The awful fact is that no clear zones or regions are exclusive domains of any ethnic group! We are sadly, entirely inter-mingled & shall struggle all amoungst ourselves. Russia was easy-we shall go down very hard.
32 posted on 03/21/2002 8:29:36 PM PST by TEXICAN II
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To: TEXICAN II
It's like this... the Hispanics/Asains are moving to the Southwest, the blacks are moving to the South, and the whites are moving to the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Northeast. From this, we can conclude that racial lines are already being drawn for the future.
33 posted on 03/21/2002 8:32:55 PM PST by koba
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To: TEXICAN II
Whatever they may say, most people assume that might makes right.

As did Stalin. They might be able to do what they like but it will never be right, no matter how many spinmeisters and so on they have. Right and wrong are moral absolutes.

34 posted on 03/21/2002 8:43:58 PM PST by luvzhottea
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To: Derville; shuckmaster; sola gracia; Dawntreader; greenthumb; JoeGar; Intimidator; ThJ1800...
bump
35 posted on 03/22/2002 12:57:33 PM PST by sheltonmac
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To: sheltonmac
Thanks for the bump.

BTTT for later reading.

36 posted on 03/22/2002 1:01:32 PM PST by Constitution Day
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To: TEXICAN II
BUMP
37 posted on 03/22/2002 1:13:45 PM PST by Aurelius
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To: sonofliberty2
Rush was reading from Madison's Federalist #10 today on his show. Excellent!
38 posted on 03/22/2002 2:21:27 PM PST by stainlessbanner
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To: sheltonmac
thanks for the bump sheltonmac. methinks the rest of the world does not like the "might makes right" attitude. it's not just.
39 posted on 03/22/2002 2:31:39 PM PST by stainlessbanner
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To: NovemberCharlie
Poor ol' Bocephus. Your remark about him is putting it more mildly than I thought possible. I knew an old boy in Texas who used to say of Hank Jr., " If his mama had of named him Clarence he'd have been SOL". ;-)

The boy sure needs the name. He would have starved without it.

40 posted on 03/22/2002 3:58:29 PM PST by Twodees
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To: stainlessbanner
BTW stainless read that article in the North and South. Well worth reading although I believe he does give too much credit to the ilk like McPherson. DiLorenzo, Brewer, and others have pointed out the fact that while some of the terms soldier were scratched out after the war, by historians, even moreso many of them weren't even on official lists.

As for Sobran, another excellent article. The Founders themselves understood the dangers of the masses voting for the federal elected officials, and also understood the the separate and sovereign status each state had and maintained entering into this compact

41 posted on 03/22/2002 5:41:34 PM PST by billbears
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Comment #42 Removed by Moderator

To: NovemberCharlie
Actually, several states have managed to repeal the surveyor's section in their constitutions that define the states borders. Most curious.

43 posted on 03/23/2002 1:59:20 AM PST by William Terrell
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Comment #44 Removed by Moderator

Comment #45 Removed by Moderator

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