Skip to comments.H.L. Mencken on Abraham Lincoln
Posted on 06/20/2002 1:32:32 PM PDT by H.R. Gross
click here to read article
An interesting, albeit incorrect, POV. Of course, you are only stating it. The soldiers of the South believed it enough to die for it.
Apparently the anti-feds were opposed to becoming the most powerful nation on earth.
No one is suggesting -unlimited- power by the federal government. It is hard to imagine how anyone could oppose the government having enough power simply to maintain its existance in the face of domestic foes too weak to control administration by organic means.
George Washington supported the consolidation of the federal government, calling it the goal of every true American. It seems hard to blame Lincoln for adopting the stance of Washington.
But it comes down to the defintion or degree of consolidation. Washington would certainly agree that what we see today is totally beyond the pale. So would Lincoln. You are trying to make a bad thing out of a good thing. It has got to be a -good- thing that we have reasonable stability and security. Those two conditions are directly related to the preservation of the government that George Washington wanted.
"What stronger evidence can be given of the want of energy in our government than these disorders? If there exists not a power to check them, what security has a man of life, liberty, or property? To you, I am sure I need not add aught on this subject, the consequences of a lax or inefficient government, are too obvious to be dwelt on. Thirteen sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin to the whole; whereas a liberal, and energetic Constitution, well guarded and closely watched, to prevent encroachments, might restore us to that degree of respectability and consequence, to which we had a fair claim, and the brightest prospect of attaining..."
George Washington to James Madison November 5, 1786
Would you be happy if the states could print their own money again?
Whatever -you- personally own is more stable and more secure because of the stable and secure situation that you have now in contrast with the unstable situation that Washington saw in 1785.
You'd think common sense would tell you that.
'As some in the South attempted to overthrow the US Constitution, I don't think they were concerned about centralized gov't, as they set up one for themselves. If they wanted out, they should have followed cooler heads, and done so using the US Constitution and the law, rather than the musket. By resorting to the sword, they contributed to making the federal government more centralized. Just the opposite of their hopes.'
This statement shows how little you know about what happened. The South was trying to peacefully secede. They voted on it in each state, it passed referendum, they wrote out the reasons for secession and presented them to Washington. Lincoln had moved troops down to Ft. Sumter in anticipation of just such a move by the South, however when the South had seceeded Ft. Sumter was no longer a friendly fort, it was being occupied by "foreign invaders". Lincoln also made the unprecedented move of basically starting a war by calling up troops to go and fight.
The South didn't want to overthrow anything! They didn't want to be a part of the Union anymore and wanted the right of self determination guaranteed to them under the intent of the Founding Fathers, and Lincoln et al said "Nope you can't go anywhere and we (the Federal Government) will decide what is good for you!".
Unfortunately, this is not a Constitutional way to leave the Union. You conveniently gloss over that fact.
Actually, I have considered that but have chosen to hold back. I'm basically a kind-hearted person and don't like to hurt people's feelings, not even those of people like Walt.
And you seem to try to apply the Constitution for an illegal war that was waged outside of Constitutional limits. You "gloss over" Lincoln's culpability for an illegal war of aggression, and seem to want for the only people that understand the real reason for Southern secession to see it your way. Once again I reiterate, the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence are (key words here) fundamental American beliefs ... you know ... 'and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ... that governments are created by consent of the governed, and when a government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT'. Now you will say that these beliefs are not expressed in the Constitution, and I say that they are the bedrock foundation of our American liberty, and comes from a higher authority than the US Constitution just as the Founder's believed they were.
I am glad you agree with my point, i.e. the South was overthrowing the US Constitution, and Lincoln was enforcing it.
You're WRONG, I am not agreeing with you, I am disputing your assumption that the Constitution was the highest authority for waging an unjust war on the South. The Right of Conscience was the reason for the Southern secession, and they did have a CONSTITUTIONAL right as old Abe stated in 1838. You act like the Federal Government was the holy grail of liberty, and in this case they were acting in direct opposition to the Founders intent. State's powers were full compared to the limited powers of Congress according to the Founders. All Congress had the authority to do was what was enumerated in the Constitution.
For your reading enjoyment-
From 'The American Ideal of 1776'
5. Limited Government
Governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed" - (Declaration of Independence)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that government must be limited in power if Individual Liberty is to be safeguarded, if each Individual's God-given, unalienable rights are to be made and kept enduringly secure.
"Just Powers" Defined
2. This philosophy asserts that the self-governing people allow any government they may organize to possess, by grant from them, only the limited and few powers with which the people think the particular government may sensibly be entrusted in order to serve their purposes without endangering their rights--their liberties or freedoms. These powers constitute the "just powers" of government, as the Declaration of Independence phrases it. This is in keeping with the primary purpose for which the people organize governments: to make and keep these unalienable rights secure and most beneficial to themselves and to Posterity--time without end.
"Limited" - a Key Word
3. "Limited government" is a key term in the American philosophy. Its great significance is indicated by describing the purpose of limiting government's power in these words: Limited for Liberty. This summarizes what is meant by the statement in the Declaration of Independence about governments being limited in power "to secure these rights"--to make and keep them ever secure. "Limited" means limited by a written Constitution adopted by the sovereign people as their basic law--never changing in its meaning, as originally intended by The Framers and Adopters, except subject to change by the people only by amendments at any time and to any extent they may see fit. All governments in America are thus limited by written Constitutions--by the United States Constitution as the "supreme Law of the Land" and, as to each State government, by that States' Constitution. (Note again Par. 4 of Principle 3, regarding the first eight, or Bill of Rights, amendments being intended to apply against the Federal government only.)
Limited Powers, Duties, Responsibilities and Limited Threat to Liberty
4. The few and limited powers of the United States government are enumerated and defined in the people's fundamental law--the Constitution, as amended. This is the basis of Rule-by-Law (basically the people's fundamental law, the Constitution) in contrast to Rule-by-Man. The limited quantity of its powers means it is limited in potential threat to the people's liberties. These "just powers," being few and limited, automatically define the limits of the duties which the people assign to this government. It can have no duties, no responsibilities, other than those consistent with the limits of the powers granted to it by the people in the Constitution, as amended, It is equally as violative of the Constitution for government to assume duties--to pretend to have responsibilities--as it is to grasp powers, beyond these prescribed limits.
Division of Powers and Checks and Balances
5. As a further safeguard for the people's rights, The Framers and Ratifiers of the Constitution provided for division of powers not only between the Federal and State governments but also within the Federal government between its three, separate Branches and, further, specified various checks and balances among these Branches, to help prevent either usurpation of power (grasping unauthorized power) or misuse of the limited quantity of power granted to it by the people: as explained, for instance, by Madison in The Federalist number 51. Each of the Branches was designed to help restrain the other Branches from any violation of the Constitution. The admonition on this topic expressed in Washington's Farewell Address reflected the conviction of all of The Founders.
"It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power; by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them."--George Washington (Farewell Address; Emphasis added)
The Compound Republic
6. The limitation of government's power, by a written Constitution adopted by the people (by the electorate), is the main distinguishing characteristic of a Republic. The correct definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each American government, Federal and State, is a Republic; and such a form of government is expressly guaranteed to each State by the United States Constitution. (Article IV, Section 4.) This makes the American system a combination, or federation , of Republics--a compound Republic as noted in The Federalist number 51 by Madison. Although the term "Federal Republic" has sometimes been used to refer both to the central (Federal) government and to the federated system of Republics--including both central government and State governments (all Republics)--it will facilitate clear thinking if this term "Federal Republic" is applied only to the central government while using the phrase "federated system of Republics" or "federation of Republics" to designate the combination, or confederation, of all of these Republics. Clarity of understanding will be best assured by referring to the central government as the central Republic.
The electorate adopt a Constitution as their basic law by utilizing a Constitutional Convention to frame it for their final approval, or ratification, as was done successfully for the first time in history by the people of Massachusetts with regard to its Constitution of 1780; it was so framed by a convention specially chosen by the people for this sole purpose and then submitted to the people for approval. Final adoption, or ratification, may also be effected in behalf of the people by a specially chosen convention for this sole purpose; and later amendments may be so approved for the people or through the regular legislative body--the alternatives specified in the United States Constitution. This Constitution was framed by the Federal (Constitutional) Convention in 1787 and then adopted in 1787-1788 by State Ratifying Conventions especially chosen by the people for this sole purpose; which is the complete and perfect method of Constitution-making. A Constitutional Convention--one chosen by the people for the sole purpose of framing or ratifying a Constitution--is one of America's greatest contributions, to the mechanics of self-government through constitutionally limited government.
Federal Delegated-Power, and State Full-Power, Republics
7. The Federal government is a delegated-power Republic which possesses only the comparatively few and limited powers granted to it by the people as enumerated in the United States Constitution, as amended--chiefly the powers concerned with "war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce" (quoting The Federalist, number 45 by Madison. It is in sharpest contrast that each State government is a full-power Republic which possesses the vast and varied powers needed to administer intra-State affairs--"all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State" (again quoting number 45). The full-power Republic of each State is subject to the State Constitution, as well as to the united States Constitution as the "supreme Law of the Land." Neither the Federal, nor any State, government therefore possesses legal sovereignty--the unlimited power of sovereignty--while the people's political sovereignty is limited in favor of preserving inviolate the God-given, unalienable rights of each Individual. (See Par. 3, Principle 4.)
The "General Welfare" in Relation to the Constitution
8. The Preamble of the United States Constitution specifies "the general Welfare" merely as one of the listed goals to be served by the Federal government in the exercise of the limited powers delegated to it, as enumerated in the body of that instrument. This mention of "the general Welfare" in the Preamble was intended, therefore, to serve in effect as a limit on the use of those delegated powers. The Preamble does not constitute a grant of any power whatever to the government. The only other mention of the words "general welfare" in the Constitution is in the Taxing Clause (Article I, Section 8) which authorizes Congress to collect taxes ". . . to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States . . ." Here, too, the words "general Welfare" were designed to serve as a limitation in effect--as a limit on the power granted under that clause. This excludes any power to tax and spend for all purposes which would not qualify as being for the "general Welfare of the United States" as a whole--for instance, it is excluded if for the benefit merely of a locality or some Individuals in the United States. The clause does not empower Congress to spend tax monies for any and every purpose it might select merely on the pretense, or even in the belief, that it is for the "general welfare." (Discussed also in Pars. 4 and 5 of Principle 11.) Congress possesses no "general legislative authority," as Hamilton stated in The Federalist number 83.
9. All of those who framed and ratified the Constitution were in agreement on this point of the limited and limiting meaning of the words "general Welfare" in the Taxing Clause. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton contended for the first time in 1791 ("Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States") in favor of a broader interpretation of this clause than he had formerly espoused and broader than that which Madison - with Hamilton's silent acquiescence--had presented in 1788 in The Federalist (especially number 41) as reflecting the controlling intent of the Framing Convention, which Madison and Jefferson consistently supported. Hamilton did not claim, however, that this clause gives to the Federal government any power, through taxing-spending, so as in effect to control directly or indirectly anything or anybody, or any activities of the people or of the State governments. Despite his assertion that this clause gives Congress a separate and substantive spending power, Hamilton cautioned expressly (Report on "Manufactures," 1791) that it only authorizes taxing and spending within the limits of what would serve the "general welfare" and does not imply a power to do whatever else should appear to Congress conducive to the "general welfare"--that it does "not carry a power to do any other thing not authorized in the Constitution, either expressly or by fair implication."
The Supreme Court's 1936 Decision Ascertaining and Defining the Original, Controlling Intent
10. As the Supreme Court decided (1936 Carter case) in ascertaining and defining the original, controlling intent of the Constitution as proved by all pertinent records and confirming its prior decisions over the generations since the adoption of the Constitution, the contentions advanced from time to time that "Congress, entirely apart from those powers delegated by the Constitution, may enact laws to promote the general welfare, have never been accepted but always definitely rejected by this court." It also decided that the Framing Convention "made no grant of authority to Congress to legislate substantively for the general welfare . . . [citing 1936 Butler case] . . . and no such authority exists, save as the general welfare may be promoted by the exercise of the powers which are granted." The American people have never amended the Constitution so as to change the limited and limiting meaning of the words "general Welfare" in the Taxing Clause, as thus originally intended by The Framers and Adopters in 1787-1788.
The Founders' Warnings
11. As Jefferson warned many times in his writings, public and private--for instance in the Kentucky Resolution--in keeping with the traditional American philosophy, strict enforcement of the Constitution's limits on the Federal government's power is essential for the protection of the people's liberties. This point was stressed at great length in The Federalist (notably numbers 17, 28, 33 and 78 by Hamilton and 44 and 46 by Madison) in reporting and explaining the intent of the Framing Convention expressed in the Constitution--as was understood and accepted by the State Ratifying Conventions. Hamilton's repeated warnings against permitting public servants to flout the people's mandate as to the limits on government's power, as specified in their basic laws (Constitutions) creating their governments, were in keeping with his words on one occasion in relation to the New York State Constitution. He stated ("Letters of Phocion," 1784) that any such defiance, by public servants, of the Constitution would be "a treasonable usurpation upon the power and majesty of the people . . ." Washington's Farewell Address expressed the conviction of The Founders of the Republic and their fellow leaders, in keeping with history's lesson, when he warned that usurpation "is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed."
Resistance to Usurpers, as Tyrants, Is Obedience to God
12. It is a traditional American motto that: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." This motto was suggested by Benjamin Franklin in mid-1776 in the Congress as being an appropriate one for the seal of the United States; and it was so truly expressive of traditional American thinking that Jefferson adopted it for use on his personal seal.
A major part of the American philosophy underlying the resistance to the tyranny of king and parliament prior to the Declaration of Independence, and in support of that Declaration in 1776, was as follows. Public officials who exceed the limits of the powers delegated to them by the people under their fundamental law and thus violate, or endanger, the people's God-given, unalienable rights thereby and to this extent make of themselves defaulting trustees, usurpers, oppressors and tyrants. They thereby act outside of this supreme law, which defines these limits and the scope of their authority and office, and therefore act without authority from the people. By thus seceding and violating the restrictions of this law, they act outside of Law: lawlessly, as "out-laws." As Samuel Adams stated: "Let us remember, that 'if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others [Posterity] in our doom'" (Emphasis added.) They thereby, in practice, replace Rule-by-Law with Rule-by-Man. These defaulting trustees--thus acting lawlessly--thereby free the people from any duty of obedience; because legally and morally, under Rule-by-Law, obedience by the self-governing people is required only to Law and not to law-defying public servants.
The reasoning supporting the above-quoted motto's concept of moral duty is this: Man, being given by his Creator unalienable rights which are accompanied by corresponding duties, has the moral duty--duty to God--to safeguard these rights for the benefit of self and others, including Posterity. Man is therefore obligated to oppose all violators of these rights; and such failure betrays Man's duty as the temporary trustee of Posterity's just heritage. This is in keeping with the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence as reiterated in part, for example, in 1788 in the Virginia Ratifying Convention's proposals for amendments to the Constitution including a Bill of Rights stating in part as follows:
". . . that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind."
Applied to the United States Constitution, which Federal and State officials are sworn to support, this means that--in resisting Federal officials who, as usurpers, defy the limits on their powers imposed by the "supreme Law of the Land"--the people and governments of the States are opposing Rule-by-Man and defending Rule-by-Law (basically the people's fundamental law: the Constitution). They are thus defending the Constitution against its violators: the Federal usurpers; and they are acting in defense of the people's God-given, unalienable rights and the States' reserved powers. The American philosophy and system of constitutionally limited government contemplates that the people of the several States--acting through their State governments--will, in last resort, use force to oppose any force employed by the Federal usurpers, that they will use military force (Militia of the States) to oppose any military force used by such usurpers; as Hamilton and Madison explained in detail in The Federalist, numbers 28 and 46.
13. The American philosophy reflects the knowledge that the history of Individual Liberty is the history of the effective limitation of government's power, which is expressed in the traditional principle summarized in the phrase: Limited for Liberty.
The yankees knew that having Southern men of honor, like Robert E. Lee, Nathan B. Forrest, and Jefferson Davis in the Union, was essential to its survival. The Yankee States, existing in a union without the Southern States, rightly seemed silly and unworkable to the Yankees. So they fought to keep them from leaving.
85 year prior to that,
King George knew that having American men of honor, like James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, in the British Empire, was essential to its survival. The British, in an empire without the Americans, rightly seemed silly and unworkable. So he fought to keep them from leaving.
Southerners, however, knew that the CSA was destined to become the greatest nation on earth, and they knew that they didn't need New Englanders of the Kennedy and Rockefeller ilk in it, to become just that. Ahh - the spirit of independence; so American.
The union we have now -is- voluntary. It was maintained agaist a disatisfied minority.
Hadn't you heard?
According to one of the affidavits of a CSA officer at Fort Pillow, Forrest shot in cold blood a mulatto servant of a federal officer. So much for him.
Lee ignored the words of his putative hero George Washington, who urged an immovable attachment to the national union. So much for him.
Jefferson Davis maintained that HIS government had the absolute right to coerce the states. So much for him.
Damn'd traitors, every one.
NO! You must go back to the ORIGINAL INTENT of the Founding Fathers.
This phrase ' The Constitution is the law of the land. States rights are circumscribed by Constitutional bounds, and subordinate to the Constitution in the powers over which the Constitution enumerates as in the federal government's sphere.M/b>'
7. 'The Federal government is a delegated-power Republic which possesses only the comparatively few and limited powers granted to it by the people as enumerated in the United States Constitution, as amended--chiefly the powers concerned with "war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce" (quoting The Federalist, number 45 by Madison. It is in sharpest contrast that each State government is a full-power Republic which possesses the vast and varied powers needed to administer intra-State affairs--"all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State" (again quoting number 45). The full-power Republic of each State is subject to the State Constitution, as well as to the united States Constitution as the "supreme Law of the Land." Neither the Federal, nor any State, government therefore possesses legal sovereignty--the unlimited power of sovereignty--while the people's political sovereignty is limited in favor of preserving inviolate the God-given, unalienable rights of each Individual. (See Par. 3, Principle 4.)
You say that the South went outside of the Constitution to Secede, and I still maintain that they seceded under the (key word here Yankee) original principles of liberty as were expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and that we still hold as inviolate!
If you are of the belief that the Declaration of Independence is not valid as a cornerstone of our principles of American liberty, then you must be saying that the States should have petitioned the Federal Government to leave. The Federal Government (overstepping its bounds) would never have let them do so. This would directly affect the individual liberties and pursuit of happiness within each State. 'The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. Federalist papers No. 45 - Madison
So now you are telling me that the North was justified in invading the South, BUT if you read the Federalist Papers you would find that you are wrong again. 'The American philosophy and system of constitutionally limited government contemplates that the people of the several States--acting through their State governments--will, in last resort, use force to oppose any force employed by the Federal usurpers, that they will use military force (Militia of the States) to oppose any military force used by such usurpers; as Hamilton and Madison explained in detail in The Federalist, numbers 28 and 46.
Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. ' Federalist Paper #28 - Hamilton
'Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.' Federalist Papers #46 - Madison