Skip to comments.The Dixiecrats - Would We Have Been Better Off Had Thurmond Won in 1948?
Posted on 12/13/2002 8:10:28 AM PST by Wallace T.
May 11, 1949
370 Central Park West
New York 25, N.Y.
States Rights Democrats
The New York Times this morning carried a report which, if true, is just about the best political news of the year. Indeed, it may be the most significant development since the advent of the New Deal.
Although a New Yorker born and bred, I was a staunch supporter of the Thurmond movement; a good friend of mine headed the Columbia Students for Thurmond, which I believe was the only such collegiate movement north of the Mason-Dixon line.
My support, however, was not extremely enthusiastic, because, although I agreed wholeheartedly with the platform and Thurmonds campaign speeches, I felt that it was keyed too much to purely Southern interests. Sure, the Civil Tyranny program must be combatted, but what about the myriad invasions of states rights in other fields by the power-hungry Washington bureaucracy? In other words, while you always claimed that yours was a national movement, by talking only of the Civil Tyranny program you threw away any attraction to Northern and Western voters.
I have always felt that it is imperative for the States Rights movement to establish itself on a nation-wide scale. Obviously, we are now living in a one-party system, a party of Socialists in fact if not in name, and only courageous Southern Democrats in Congress have so far blocked their program. But as far as Presidential elections go, the Republicans are through the Socialist Administration has too much power to bribe voters with wild promises. If things go on as they are, it is only a question of a few years for the socialist program to go through and destroy this land of liberty.
Therefore it is essential to form a new party, of States Righters, consisting of Southern Democrats and real Republicans (omitting the me-too Republicans) to launch a dynamic offensive against National Socialism in this country before it is too late. I am greatly elated over your new platform because I believe it points in that direction.
Would you please send me a copy of your new platform and constitution? Do you plan to start a newspaper of nation-wide circulation? This would be of great help in establishing a national States Rights movement.
I would like to add that, as an economist, I enthusiastically support your proposals on national debt and taxes in fact, taken all and all, from the news reports I would say that your new platform is one of the best in American history. Indeed, it is one of the finest political statements in America since Calhouns Exposition.
It could grow into a mighty movement if you have the will and vision. There are millions of Americans throughout the country, Republicans and Democrats, who would flock to your banner. They are weary of being led by the nose by New Deal politicians of both parties they are tired of being deprived of their votes because there is no anti-socialist and pro-liberty party to which they can turn.
You, gentlemen, can be a means of succor for these millions - and not only these, but America itself. National Socialism has always meant poverty, tyranny, and war. America is slipping down the road and has already gone far; it must be restored to the right path if the great dream of our forefathers of a nation dedicated to liberty is not to vanish from the earth. Yours can be that mission.
Murray N. Rothbard
Murray N. Rothbard (19261995), the founder of modern libertarianism and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author of The Ethics of Liberty and For a New Liberty and many other books and articles. He was also academic vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian Studies, and the editor with Lew Rockwell of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report.
Copyright © 2002 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute
Murray Rothbard Archives
I am no fan of Trent Lott; he has proven to be an ineffective Majority Leader. Yet he is being skewered by GOPers and neo-conservatives for what in essence is a thoughtcrime, and not for his weakness as a leader. Lott is being hounded because he may harbor fond memories of the pre-Civil Rights South. Lott should be removed for his poor leadership. However, the usually sound conservative leaders, such as Cal Thomas, Peggy Noonan, George Will, etc., calling for his resignation at this hour only feed the appetite of the liberal media - Democrat axis.
De iure segregation imposed by state and local governments was an unjust use of government power, but so are the civil rights laws passed in 1964 and thereafter. If it is wrong to force a bus company to provide separate accomodations for blacks in 1952, it is also wring to force a homeowner to sell his home to a person he does not want to sell it to in 2002. Both types of law violate property rights and freedom of association.
Furthermore, the Federal civil rights laws, insofar as they apply to the private sector, are un-Constitutional. Inasmuch as the 14th Amendment (assuming it is a validly ratified Constitutional amendment, which it is not!) extends the Bill of Rights to the states, blacks should have received equal treatment in public schools, municipally owned transit, etc. That they did not, in spite of the Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" doctrine issued by the Supreme Court in 1896, is a matter of record. Perhaps the Federal government was justified in compelling the states to treat all citizens equally. But this is a matter entirely different than the Federal government saying to a businessman that you must hire blacks, Hispanics, women, et. al. The Bill of Rights applies to the actions and decisions of government, e,g,, Congress shall pass no law...
Today's so-called conservatives, for the most part, praise the Federal integration laws that their putative forebears, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, opposed 40 years earlier. Indeed, some neo-conservatives have attempted to morph 1960s era liberal icons John Kennedy, a dissolute playboy, and Martin Luther King, an associate of Communists, into conservative heroes. Even more shocking, the Bush Administration will not denounce affirmative action, a racist policy as egregious as the anti-Jewish quotas at Ivy League universities before World War II.
There was much evil and violence in the segregated South, although the occurrence of illegal lynchings had dropped from over 200 a year around 1900 to less than 10 per year in the 1940s. Even with the high figure of 200 per year, I dare say black on black crime accounts for more deaths per year in Washington, D.C. alone in any given year, not to mention Detroit, Chicago, or New York. If many small towns posted a slogan "N______, don't let the sun set on your back" 70-80 years ago, it is also true that no one, of any race, dares venture out at night in Harlem, South Central Los Angeles, or Anacostia. If black schools in the South before 1954 suffered from poor facilities, overcrowding, and a lack of textbooks, minority schools in all regions after 1970 have often been plagued with rampant drugs, gangs, and violence, plus (when they can teach) instructors who promote hatred of whites, disparage traditional American values and encourage political correctness, to the exclusion of the traditional 3 Rs.
The only thing that Rothbard was wrong on is the timetable of America's slippage into socialism. He was too pessimistic. However, the threat of intrusive government is even more real in 2002 than it was in 1949. True conservatives need to recognize Thurmond's opposition to President Truman's reelection bid in 1948 as an act of courage and not as the folly of a racist.
The 'conservative' Democrats you speak of were also against anti-lynching laws -- definitely not a record to be proud of given that blacks who were lynched in the South often turned out to be ex-servicemen who had honorably served our country. These same 'conservative' Democrats were also against laws that would have outlawed various Jim Crow schemes such as poll taxes that were enacted in the South specifically to prevent blacks from being able to vote
And Thurmond would have let Macarthur do what he wanted in Korea, Nuke the ChiComs, and we wouldn't be worrying about China & North Korea now.
I especially disagree with your juxtaposing conditions today with those in the segregated south toegther with the suggestion things were better in the 'good old days'; there is a fundamental difference you ignore: the problems of segregation were deliberate and the product of ill will, whereas the most that can be said of the problems of the inner city and failing schools is that they reflect a failure of will rather than ill will. The political courage to tackle the problems of crime and poor schools headon is lacking, but those problems are not the result of anyone intentionally trying to make any Americans legally inferior.
The question is: what are the Constitutionally justified powers of the Federal government? There are many social ills, racism being one of them; it is wrong to use Federal power to correct these evils if the Federal government is not empowered to do so. There are Constitutional means of correcting ills. In the case of the poll tax you cited, the 24th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1962, prohibiting a poll tax in Federal elections.
Granted, some Southern Democrats, like Theodore Bilbo, were likely motivated by racism and not by true concern for states rights and adherence to the Constitution. Yet despite legitimate questioning of motive, the Dixiecrats and like-minded Republicans like Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater were correct in pointing out that the Federal government has no authority, except in the territories or on Federal lands, to prohibit murder. It would be better that conservatives return to their limited government and pro-Constitution roots rather than attempt to hold the socialistic political positions of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey and call it conservatism.
As for the difference between ill will and a failure of will, I would submit that a victim of either condition has been wronged. In either case, Federal governmental remedies should be applied only when Constitutionally warranted.
Which is why he deserves no leadership position.
If that makes me a neocon, so be it.
That is all fine and well, but explain to me how you would have gotten rid of Jim Crow, or slavery for that matter, without federal involvement.
And on the territory of what used to be both the United States and what used to be the Soviet Union, there would be a vast unpopulated smoldering nuclear wasteland far too radioactive for anyone to inhabit.
And how would that have happened between 1949 and 1953???
What is our heritage as conservatives? Are we the heirs of Washington or George III? Grover Cleveland or William Jennings Bryan? Calvin Coolidge or Franklin Roosevelt? Robert Taft or Harry Truman? Barry Goldwater or Lyndon Johnson? Ronald Reagan or Nelson Rockefeller? In all too many cases, some who call themselves by the name conservative choose the "big government" member of the above couplings.
Since Thurmond would not have taken office until 1949 I don't have to.
I think support of segregation is a moral issue, one that has caused pain even within my own family as family members have disagreed.
Your point that the victime of ill will and of a failure of will has been wronged in either case is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far. The former, ill will, is definitely morally culpable, while the latter, while not praiseworthy, represents only a failure to adhere to an ideal superogatory standard.
Are you implying that he would have been a one term [gasp!] President?
Jim Crow was economically disafvantageous to the South. It suppressed the advancement of the region especially in the post-War period. While southern states would have probably jettisoned Jim Crow eventually for those economic reasons, but it would have taken awhile. However, I think that the federal government had the authority through the 13th or the commerce clause.
It is a real intellectual stretch to even imagine that Thurmond would be a one term President. Strom's election would have so splintered the national Democrat party that Eisenhower would have probably been elected in '52 anyway
It is not the business of government to correct all social ills, especially those caused by the decisions of free people, wise or not. Whites, and members of other races, prefer to associate with members of their own race, by and large. This is even true of white liberals: I dare say that in 2002 Beverly Hills, Chicago's Gold Coast, and Philadelphia's Main Line are as lily white as the congregation of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, South of Jackson, Mississippi, was in 1932. Laws by themselves do not change human nature; they only affect behavior, at least when the cops are in sight.
Would that neo-conservatives and liberals recognize these facts!
So I take it that until the Constitution was amended after the Civil War had ended, the Federal Gov't had no business bothering itself with a 'social ill' like slavery.
Right. Well, The War (as my Southern grandmother used to say, avoiding all the questions whether it should be called the War of Northern Agression -which made her laugh-, the War Between the States -which she used when talking to those who might not know what she meant by The War-, or the Civil War - a term she did not find nearly so objectionable as many today) was surely about things other than slavery and it was surely about slavery. I imagine the relative importance of issues varied for various Southerners. One of my Southern greatgrandfathers who supported his native Tennessee in The War also freed his 75+ slaves before The War because he believed slavery was incompatible with his being a Christian minister. Go Figure.
(Someone once asked Eisenhower if he had made any mistakes as President. He replied that he did and that they both were sitting on the Supreme Court. Eisenhower's reference was to justices Warren and Brennan.)
To say the 13th Amendment could be stretched to cover anti-lynching laws and other civil rights legislation is as specious an argument by many libertarians that said amendment prohibits the military draft. The clear intent of the authors of the amendment was to prohibit chattel slavery, not to rectify social customs or unjust laws that stemmed from that institution. If said amendment provided the authority to end unequal treatment of blacks under state laws, there would not have been a need for the 14th and 15th Amendments, passed within a few years of the 13th Amendment.
Don't forget that many Northern states, where slavery never existed or had been abolished decades before Fort Sumter, had de iure segregation, de facto segregation, and anti-black laws. Both Illinois and Ohio restricted the settlement of free blacks in their states before the Civil War. Blacks were lynched in Indiana and Delaware in the early 1900s, not just in Alabama and Louisiana. Public school segregation persisted in New Jersey until 1950. California and other West Coast states placed numerous restrictions on Orientals, in terms of property rights, voting rights, etc. Other states imposed restrictions against American Indians. None of these injustices could be pinned on the after effects of slavery.
As for the "interstate commerce" clause, now there's a "wax nose" if ever there was one! The clear intent of that clause was to create a common market by preventing restrictive tariffs, quotas, etc., on goods from the other states. The Framers of the Constitution clearly did not intend to use this clause as a tool for economic, much less social reform, intervention. That Earl Warren and the Supreme Court accepted the "interstate commerce" argument only speaks to the justices' embrace of a very loose construction of the nation's basic law.
All in all, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were better guides to what the Constitution was intended to effect than were Nicholas Katzenbach, Earl Warren, or their ilk.
Slavery should have been abolished in 1788 by mutual consent, not in 1865 after the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the ruination of much of the South.
Not only that, but it is a proper use of federal power and force to ensure that states adhere to the core provisions of the Constitution. Jim Crow was a direct violation of the concept of equal protection. Plessy v. Ferguson even tacitly admitted the importance of the concept, with its "separate but equal" langauge. Since forced segregation was anything but equal, that nullified Plessey and justified federal force to make states adhere to the Constituiton.
And eliminating Jim Crow was a valid federal action under the Constitution. States do NOT have the right to violate the fundamental constitutional rights of their citizens - and Jim Crow was a direct affront to the concept of equal protection. The Dixiecrats took a noble concept, states rights, and, by trying to wrap it around their sordid actions, instead fouled the core concepts they claimed they were standing for - and to this day, opponents of states rights simply point to 1948 as an effective means of trashing any good arguments in favor of states rights. And by bringing this up now, Lott just set federalism back several years.
As those 80 years went by, the South pretty much controlled that agenda and the courts, even got the Fugitive Slave Act passed.
If we compare a public school board of trustees in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1922 treating black students in an inferior manner by not spending as much per pupil and their successors in 2002 failing to enforce an orderly atmosphere, both are negligent actions. In the former case, no doubt the trustees believed blacks were an inferior race and thus it was considered wasteful to spend as much on their education as on white students. In the latter case, the trustees may believe that tough-minded discipline would be harmful to the psyches of students. In both cases, the trustees may believe their motivations are good ones, but the consequences in both cases are disastrous.
There was no mutual consent to end it on the part of the slave holding states. And 73 years later there was still no desire to end it on the part of the slave-holding states.
I tend to blame the founders for this problem. You cannot create a limited-government system that also allows a group to be denied their core federal rights by the underlying entities. Had the founders addressed slavery at the time the Constitution were written, much of the justification for federal expansion of powers would have been nullified right there and then.