The Republican Party: Dreams of the Confederacy.

October 15, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

Conservatives are out in force on social media this week after a Tea Party protest included protestors waving Confederate flags at the White House of the first African American President. The conservative response has typically taken two directions; either the suggestion that the man with the flag was planted by a devious Democrat Party in an attempt to undermine the Tea Party and paint them as racist…. or that it is just one man who does not represent the Tea Party in general. Both presuppose that this is an anomaly. It isn’t.

In June this year, Rand Paul – potential Presidential candidate for 2016 – had to fire the co-author of his book, and his 2012 campaign blogger Jack Hunter, after Hunter penned an article with the by-line “Abraham Hitler“, in which he compares the Lincoln Presidency to the Third Reich. In it, Hunter neatly rewrites history to make the Confederacy seem freedom loving, State’s rights protecting heroes with a goal to be proud of:

“Dissuading the South from seceding by promising to protect slavery didn’t work, because the issue was secondary to the primary issue of constitutional government and states’ rights.”

– This is simply untrue. The Southern States seceded, because of the issue of slavery. There is no other way to spin it without completely disregarding the actual history itself. Any other ’cause’ was simply a device to win over more moderate forces. We know this, because Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession states:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Perhaps most tellingly of all, is the Confederate Constitution. Section 9 of which states:

“(4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

– This shows how little the Confederacy cared about State’s Rights. The State’s have no right to abolish Slavery. No individual State can pass a law impairing the right of property in slaves. The Confederate Federal Government did not care for State’s Rights. They cared only about maintaining and spreading African American slavery.

Hunter isn’t the first to express sympathy for the Confederate cause. In 2009 – and only a month after the inauguration of the United States’ first African American President, Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R) of the Missouri State House said in reference to the Freedom of Choice Act:

“What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression”.

– Yes, a Unite States, State Representative genuinely referred to the war that ended the hideous institution of owning human beings as slaves, as ‘northern aggression’.

Four years later, House Republican for Texas’s 36th District, Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent to the 2013 State of the Union, noting in a press release:

“I am excited to have a Patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama.”

– We should perhaps then examine just what credentials Republican House Representative Steve Stockman believes a ‘Patriot’ must have. In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said of anyone that supports President Obama:

“Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters have a president to destroy America.”

In a 1995 interview, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said:

“I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– In the same interview, when asked why he specifically mentions white people, and if he believe African Americans are equally hard working and independent, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent responded:

“Show me one.”

In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent told us all just how much he adores the United States, in the Washington Times:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

In 2000, during controversy over the displaying of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House, Nugent said that those objecting:

“Can take the flag down, but I am going to wear it forever.”

– A “Patriot” to Tea Party Confederates & Republicans like Steve Stockman, wave Confederate flags, wishes the South had won the Civil War (thus upholding slavery), believes African Americans are not hard working, that only white people are true Americans, and anyone who votes Democrat is a “whore” and “Welfare brat”. Sentiments like that spewed by Nugent are not condemned by Republicans as completely unacceptable, offensive, vile, and entirely contrary to the American sense of justice and liberty; but are instead treated with either complete indifference, or promoted as the words of a Patriot.

On January 22nd 2013, whilst Sen. Henry Marsh (D) – a veteran of the Civil Rights era – was attending President Obama’s inauguration, Senate Republicans in the 20-20 split Virginia Senate sneaked through a redistricting bill essentially ensuring a Republican Senate in 2015. Republicans in the Senate went even further that day. Not only did they manipulate the absence of a civil rights veteran to ensure a majority in 2015… they called a halt to the day’s proceedings with the following announcement in the minutes of the day:

“On motion of Senator Stosch, the Senate adjourned in memory or [sic] General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson at 4:10 p.m. to convene Tuesday, January 22, 2013”

– They called a halt to proceedings not because the President had just been re-inaugurated a day before, but instead to honour a Confederate general. Furthermore, Senator Henry Marsh was a lawyer during the Civil Rights days. His law practice focused on civil rights cases. At the same time, Virginia’s Republican Senators were organising resistance to desegregation. That was the 1960s. In 2013, the children of those Republicans use his absence to advance their cause, and pay their respects to a Confederate general. Times change, attitudes and sentiment apparently don’t.

The spectre of the Confederacy follows the 21st Century Republican Party everywhere they go. The Tea Party Confederates aren’t just one man outside the White House waving a flag, it is a growing number of Party members in general, with an apparent air of Confederate nostalgia attaching itself to everything they do and everything they say. A man outside of the White House waving a flag, is simply a drop in the ocean of the thoughts, words, and actions of the Tea Party dream of Confederacy.


The Photography of the US Civil War.

August 27, 2013

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“Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.”
The New York Times on Oct. 20, 1862

The great US Civil War historian Shelby Foote, once commented that the Civil War fundamentally changed the US linguistically from ‘the United States are…‘ to ‘the United States is…‘. A rather perfect outline of the result of the war. But there’s another interesting result of the conflict. The Civil War also introduced photography to journalism.

Lincoln recognised the power of photography, having joked that he may never have been re-elected without Mathew Brady’s portrait. Lincoln knew by 1865 the importance of photography, because its use in the US Civil War helped to diminish northern support for the Union forces, the moment hundreds of photographers invaded the battlefield at the end of a battle.

It was one thing to read letters from the front line (this also struck a blow to Northern support for the war, given the growth of the postal service at this time), but it was a completely different thing to see broken and torn corpses strewn across the battlefield, from a quiet house in northern towns and cities, far from the frontlines. The birth of Photojournalism at this point brought images of hell, to every American house in the country.

Today, they give us an incredible documentation of that four year period that cost so many lives, made so many political careers, and gave birth to ‘the United States is…‘.

Here are a few that caught my attention. Click the images, for larger versions.

A Confederate soldier, killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse:

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The inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 1861:

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Union War General, and 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S.Grant. 1863:

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Confederate troops killed at Antietam:

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A slave family on a cotton plantation in Georgia:

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President Lincoln, with the Glaswegian Allan Pinkerton on the left, and Union General John McClernand:

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A regiment in formation, in Missouri:

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The 8th New York State Militia:

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Confederate Commander Robert E.Lee:

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Union Troops at Fredericksburg:

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Union General, and scorched Earth enthusiast, William Tecumseh Sherman:

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Confederate Soldiers killed, at Spotsylvania Court House. 1864:

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The camp of the 31st Pennsylvania Infantry, outside of Fort Slocum. 1862. A lot of wives and children insisted on joining their husbands at camp:

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Confederate Soldiers of Louisiana’s Washington Artillery, preparing for the Battle of Shiloh. 1862:

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President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

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A Union camp:

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The flag of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves. 1864:

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Civil War Photography was used for a duel purpose. Firstly, we see from the horrendous images of those killed in battle, those young men who lost their lives so early, for a war that shaped the US ever since; as the New York Times pointed out in 1862, those images brought the horrors of war to the doorstep of every American. Secondly, the photography of the Civil War was used to create heroes out of its leaders. Tecumseh Sherman is sitting mightily, back straight, in a leadership pose atop his horse, in eerily similar pictures to early paintings of George Washington similarly used to convey a sense of majesty and honour. Similar images from the Mathew Brady collection show us Lincoln, as a towering figure, looking purposeful. Civil War photography helped propel the face of Ulysses Grant into the minds of millions. Photojournalism was a key component of the US Civil War and its legacy can be seen whenever we are presented with the horrors of war and conflict, and the images of World leaders appearing to look determined and thoughtful. US Civil War Photojournalism is an often forgotten, but vastly important contribution to the modern World.


To fly the flag of the Confederacy

January 15, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

In his 1953 novel ‘Bring the Jubilee’, Ward Moore imagines a revised history in which the Confederacy wins the Battle of Gettysburg and thus the Civil War. A key theme of the book, is the imperialist ambitions of the Confederate States between the end of the war, and the 1950s. President Robert Lee, whom takes over at the end of Jefferson Davis’ term in Office fights and fights to stop an imperialistic Congress invading Central and South America. The novel is of course imagined alternate history, but it is shockingly close to reality when we note the future aims of the Confederacy during the Civil War period, and the complete ignorance of this by those who still fly the Confederate Flag (appropriated from the original Army of Tennessee flag) under the misapprehension that it represents “State’s Rights”.

I have travelled from the UK to Michigan three times this year. The three seasons I have encountered have all had their merits, and the wonderful landscape adapts each time to reveal a hidden beauty that I hadn’t seen previously. The red leaves of autumn are calming whilst the summer evenings provide beautiful sunsets over the lake. I love Michigan.

However, as an outsider, I have been shocked to see that people still fly the Confederate flag.

I am ensured that it is a symbol of the South in general – and in particular, States rights. This is of course, nonsense. It pre-supposes that the Confederate flag and the Confederacy in general, along with secession was ever about State’s Rights. I believe this mythical idea of the old South used to be referred to as the ‘Lost Cause’; a devious yet charming little term of propaganda romanticising the South to a degree that it absolutely doesn’t deserve.

The ‘State’s Rights’ claim as to the cause of the Civil War suggests that the Southern States were ardent defenders of the individual States as a loose collection of autonomous States that could vote on and set their own laws and regulations, and trade with each other, without Federal interference. This is simply not true. The Southern States were far more anti-freedom, and anti-States Rights than the North.

For example, on the eve of secession, South Carolina issued a declaration entitled:

“Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.”

– Their grievences listed, are almost entirely based on slavery. In the most telling attack on State’s Rights, it is clear that South Carolina did not like that Northern States had at times refused to send fugitive slaves back to their ‘Masters’ in the South:

“an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery. … In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed …”

– Tellingly, the South Carolina Declaration demands that the Northern non-slave holding States conform to the views of slave holding States by allowing Southerners when visiting the North, to bring their slaves with them, as slaves:

“In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals.”

– The South didn’t care for States Rights. The South employed the most imperialistic, totalitarian, anti-liberty social and economic system, dreaming of empire, in the entire nation.

Now Southern propagandists will argue that tariffs, and Federal planning grants were just as to blame for secession, but those points are not mentioned in most Southern literature from the time. The Southern States seceded, because of the issue of slavery. It isn’t State’s Rights, it is White Male Rights.

Similar to South Carolina, Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession states:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Perhaps most tellingly of all, is the Confederate Constitution. Section 9 of which states:

(4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

– This shows how little the Confederacy cared about State’s Rights. The State’s have no right to abolish Slavery. No individual State can pass a law impairing the right of property in slaves. The Confederate Federal Government did not care for State’s Rights. They cared only about maintaining and spreading slavery as a system.

So, the South essentially means that it is an ardent defender of States Rights, as long as the Southern States have the Right to demand the Northern States do as the South demands. But not only did the South wish to ensure the North did as it was told, they wished to expand their slave holding empire into different continents.

The American lawyer and journalist William Walker, in 1854, after a failed attempt to set up a Republic of Sonora in Mexico, with the intention of it becoming a State of the Union; invaded Nicaragua for control of a vital trade route between New York and San Francisco. He succeeded in his efforts, and took control of Nicaragua, renaming it “Walkeragua” (seriously, i’m not making this up). In 1856, President Franklin Pierce, officially recognised Walker’s regime in Walkeragua as legitimate. His regime began to Americanise Walkeragua, by instating slavery, using American currency, and making English the official language. He advertised his new Country to American Southern businessmen by advertising the fact that his new quasi-State was pro-slavery and would remain so.
By the time Walker revoked Nicaragua’s 1824 Emancipation Act, the rest of Latin America took note, and invaded. He fled and was bought back to the U.S where he was welcomed as a hero of the South.
He died before the Civil War kicked off, but the South referred to him throughout the Civil War as “General Walker“ and “The grey-eyed man of destiny”. The South did not just fight to preserve the institution of slavery, they wanted to expand it, on a grand scale, to the point where Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky proposed that the 36°30′ parallel north be a line that separates the northern free states, and the southern slave states, all the way down to the tip of South America.

Walker wasn’t the only Southerner with Imperialist ambitions. The Confederate Secretary of State John C. Breckinridge decided that Southern States had the right to invade whomever they wished:

“The Southern states cannot afford to be shut off from all possibility of expansion towards the tropics by the hostile action of the federal government.”

As autonomous “States rights” go, invading another sovereign nation and revoking its anti-slavery laws, in hope of creating a slave owning empire, is about as big and as bad as a Federal Government can get.
So far, that’s State’s Rights to own people as property, and the State’s Rights to invade sovereign countries and force slavery upon them. Let’s also not forget State’s Rights to wander into other countries, and capture locals to be shipped back to Southern lands as slaves, as President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davies suggested when he mentioned reviving the slave trade because there was an abundance of:

“….new acquisitions to be made south of the Rio Grande.”

– The imperialist fantasies that prominent Southern politicians were expressing quickly evaporates the intensely faulty premise that for the South, the Civil War was about State’s Freedoms and Rights. It is therefore absurd to claim the Confederate flag stands for those qualities. It stood in defiance of those qualities.

By flying the Confederate flag, what social system are you showing your support for, or your nostalgic sense of loss for? What economic system? Certainly the civil war pitted the more industrialised and Capitalist Northern economic system, against the more agrarian and slave-holding Southern economic structure. So what are you advocating? Surely not Capitalism, as Capitalism was most certainly considered a great evil in the old South, so much so that George Fitzhugh – a leading Social Theorist of the time, insisted that slavery protected African Americans from the pains of Capitalism, and attacks the idea of “free competition” no less than 42 times in his book ‘Slavery Justified’. On a Social level, Fitzhugh (who went on to work in the Treasury of the Confederacy, as well as counting numerous Confederate politicians among his friends and admirers) says of African Americans:

Half of mankind are but grown up children, and liberty is fatal to them as it is to children.

– The line of reasoning is reasonable when framed in the cold ignorance of the mid-19th century, but is widely unacceptable, and entirely incorrect by 21st century logic. We must remember that Fitzhugh was writing prior to Darwin’s understanding that racial differences were not biological. Fitzhugh would have been influenced by social theorists on racial and cultural differences, culminating in the studies of anthropologists such as Lewis Henry Morgan, who argued in his work ‘Ancient Societies’ that societies and thus peoples could be classed as primitive or civilised, and that the white European civilisation was far more advanced than ‘primitive’ African cultures. Morgan’s work was less based on evolutionary biology, and more on a Euro-centric cultural study, and very little else. His works later influenced Marx in his theory of Historical Materials, thus proving that his writings were widely available and respected.

State’s Right’s. What they mean is, the rich white male’s right to own people as property based on skin tone, without anyone telling them that it’s wrong. The African American had no right to complain, had no right to vote, no right to not be beaten, no right to anything. As the great Senator of the time Charles Sumner stated:

By the licence of slavery, an entire race is delivered over to the prostitution and concubinage without the protection of any law.

– Here Sumner is noting that the South revokes its claims on “Rights” when it imprisons the vast majority of its population in a state of bondage; breaking the ties of family, and brotherhood, of marriage and replacing parent/child relationships (natural relationships) with master/slave. When you appropriate the fruit of labour freely, when you take away their right to active political participation, when you deny education, and when you break natural bonds like that of family; you can no longer claim the defence of ‘State’s rights’, and any future generation flying the flag that represented that putrid system should be ashamed.

Often, I read insistences that the Confederate Flag today means Southern pride, or Southern heritage, or other equally manipulative benign terms. That narrative is misjudged. The Confederate flag was a very specific flag, for a very specific system, at a very specific time. It is a reason. So, if you must insist on ensuring the World knows just how proud you are to be from Southern States, why not have a new flag, predicated on State’s Rights, or Southern Pride? Designed for that purpose. Why use the EXACT same flag that was designed purely for the sake of representing the slave system. It is disingenuous to attempt to suggest the Confederate Flag is anything but a provocative flag of hate.

The Confederacy Flag represents, not States Rights, not Southern heritage or pride, but the following: An Economic and Social system built on slavery. Anti-Capitalism. Anti-liberty. Imperialism. Scientific ignorance. White Supremacy. The Confederate flag represents that system. Nothing else. Certainly not “State’s Rights”. It is very specific as a symbol.

The attempts to pose the Civil War as a State’s Rights issue, is simply to ignore and revise history in an attempt to create a sort of “David V Goliath” narrative in which the South is the victim of the big bad Federal Government. It is ignorant, lazy, and wrong.

To fly the flag of Confederacy today is shameful.


Secession from the Union can only happen by violent revolution.

November 13, 2012

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Today, citizens in 20 States over in the US have petitioned the White House’s ‘We Are The People’ site to secede from the Union, based on their continued bitterness that their preferred candidate-for-insanity didn’t win the election.
Amusingly, the secession petitions carry with them a quote from the Declaration:

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…”

– Deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. Well, the governed just democratically chose not to give any power to your candidate. Deal with it. That’s democracy. The form of government has not become destructive to that end. You lost. Democracy doesn’t mean you must win, all the time. If you want to secede, because you lost the election, then you absolutely do not understand democracy or America. It really is amazing what a bunch of regressive idiots will do when a man with dark skin is in the White House.

It is interesting to me, that New York has a petition. It has a couple of thousand signatures so far. What a curious understanding of democracy. Their State voted Democrat. The majority of those in New York, are Democrat. So, if a vote was theoretically put to New York State legislature, based on the will of the people, it would lose. What would secessionists then say? Secede, but only the conservative areas of New York? It really is absurd reasoning… again.

They are unhappy that they have been democratically defeated. So, they’re calling for a new democracy. Because apparently that’s what democracy means. If you don’t win, no longer observe the rules of democracy. But call for a new democracy. Based entirely on you winning. Essentially, secede, until you win. Eventually it’ll come down to individual homes. And then their wife will vote against them. And so they’ll secede from the home.

Granted it’s a very small number of Americans that have actually signed the petition. Just to give you some perspective, my article titled Bad day for bigots has so far today received 11,327 views. The State of South Carolina’s petition for secession so far has 10,722 signatures. 4,679,230 people live in the State of South Carolina. So, that’s 0.22% of the population of South Carolina calling for secession. Not even half of 1%. And less than the amount of people who have viewed one article of mine, in less than 12 hours. If we take Texas, which has the most signatures for secession so far with 67,834, and we note that the population of Texas is currently 25,674,681, we see that a weak 0.26% of the Texan population; just over a quarter of 1%… calling for secession. So, a very small number, by anyone’s standards. Unlike this guy, who thinks it’s practically the entire population, and has curiously “never happened before”:


(Posting Tweets is becoming somewhat of a fun new game for me).

Judging from secession tweets currently occupying Twitter, it would seem that they are citing States Rights (that old chessnut) derived from the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment States:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

– The inference being, that the Federal government under Obama has wrestled too much power away from the States. Oddly, there weren’t too many calls for secession from right winged Americans when Reagan massively expanded Federal payroll, tripled the National Debt, raised taxes in ’82, ’83, ’84, and sold arms to Iran, all whilst covertly funding terrorists throughout Latin America. But I suppose that’s hypocrisy for you.

The Tenth Amendment is quite clear. But it is not the final say the Founders had on the matter of the supremacy of law in the US. Article 6 states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

– Essentially, Federal law is supreme. State law does not override Federal law. Regardless of the ‘Constitution of Laws of any State’, Federal law is supreme. If Congress votes, and the President signs, and the judges see no unconstitutional problem with the law, then whatever bitter and angry ‘Confederates’ think about the law, it does not change the fact that they must abide by it. In the same way that whilst I dislike the changes the Conservative Party over here have implemented with regards the NHS…. I can’t suddenly call for the city of Leicester to secede from the UK. Well, I could… but i’d be wrong. My side of the argument lost the election in 2010. I have to accept that.

The great enlightenment thinkers that provided the US Constitution certainly realised that there may well be some people, after an election goes against them, that might demand secession. And so Article 1 Section 10 of the Constitution states:

“No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or Confederation. No state shall, without the consent of Congress, keep troops, or ships of war in times of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger.”

– Obviously a State, to succeed alone, would have to enter into treaty’s or alliances, or Confederation. Thus breaking the guide set out by the Constitution. The Founders anticipated secessionist nonsense. And they reiterated it AGAIN with Article 4 Section 3:

“Congress will make rules and regulations for territories and for property of the federal government.

– The Federal government owns the land. Specifically, Congress. Congress is empowered by the Constitution, and so cannot act outside of its power. Thus, any secession acted through Congress would be illegal and unconstitutional, rendering it meaningless.
As if that isn’t enough restrictions on right winged States-Rights advocates, then perhaps Article 1 Section 8 Clause 18, which garnered a lot of debate during its ratification process that including it in the Constitution would grant too much power to the Federal Government above the States. Hamilton and Madison argued for its inclusion. And it got included.

The Congress shall have Power – To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

– Hamilton used this clause to defend his Bank of America (arguably the biggest centralisation of power in US history).

States, through their representatives to Congress, give up certain State powers when they vote to ratify certain Federal Laws. Those laws that haven’t been given up to Congress, stay within the remit of the States. That is my reading of the entire subject of States Rights. Talk of secession is not only illegal and unconstitutional; it is based on a very simplistic and flawed reading of the Constitution and the motives of the Founders in particular. More than that; it is based on the undemocratic hysterics of “our candidate didn’t win, so we don’t recognise the outcome”.

These people, the very same people who insist on telling everyone what a ‘real’ American is. If you’re Atheist, you’re not a ‘real’ American. If you’re socialist, you’re not a ‘real’ American. If you support gay marriage or abortion, you’re not a ‘real’ American….. are now showing just how American they are, by demanding to leave the Union, simply because they very democratic principles that America was built on, did not turn up the result they wanted. They should be ashamed.

If they feel disenfranchised, then become politically active. Run for office. If your position isn’t gaining enough support……. maybe that’s because people don’t agree with it. Again, that’s democracy. There’s only so many times you can secede from all forms of social governance, before you’re on your own…. living in a Hobbesian hell hole. Grunting, as you chase your prey, with a spear. The point being, eventually, your point of view is not going to be the most popular. This is how democracy works.

I imagine a seceded Tea Party Confederacy would be pretty hellish. Walmart and Starbucks would be the two parties fighting for power. Leave your house and walk out onto the road? Pay for it! Everything is private! Including the roads you walk on. Don’t have police insurance? Well then your property will be robbed, tough. The land of the free! Unless you’re gay. Which would obviously be outlawed, as a sin against the word of the Lord. The land of the free! Where you have the democratic right to vote…. for a conservative…. You get the idea.

Now, obviously the Constitution sets out how States must act when in Union. There is no legal framework for secession, nor is secession legal. But, once seceded (violently), the States obviously wouldn’t have to abide by US law. The problem for them is, they absolutely cannot secede. Their legislatures are bound by oath to fully support the rules set out within it, and the land belongs to the Federal Government. They therefore, can only secede after declaring war.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution

– James Madison, writing in the Federalist Papers Number 44 progresses this point:

The members of the federal government will have no agency in carrying the State constitutions into effect. The members and officers of the State governments, on the contrary, will have an essential agency in giving effect to the federal Constitution.

– State officers must abide by the Constitution. They are compelled by its powers. Therefore, given that the Constitution limits States rights, and places Federal law as supreme, and compels representatives in Congress and State Legislatures to abide by it, by oath, it follows that secession cannot be brought about by legal nor peaceful means. The only way these people can secede, is violent overthrow of their State legislature. And to do that, simply because your candidate lost an election, is abhorrent.

I wrote my political thesis on President Lincoln’s relationship to the pro-slavery movement coming out of the South. And what stands out more than anything, as it does today, is that hysterical right winged lunacy pushed Lincoln into a vehement abolish-slavery position that he absolutely did not support in the run up to his first election win. He simply expressed his intention to prevent the spread of slavery westward, thereby keeping Congress 50% free, 50% slave. The Confederacy did not just want to preserve their right to hold human beings as slaves, they wanted to expand it as far as possible. Lincoln was worried that slavery would be Nationalised. He did not wish to outlaw slavery in the South, until pushed to it, by a manic, overly paranoid Confederacy. An over paranoid Confederacy, that whilst completely discredited, is still in part using the same hysterical tactics it used 150 years ago.

The reason they wish to secede this time is simple; they didn’t win an election.


Racism in America: Lincoln

March 2, 2011

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 brought with it the utopic notion that racism in the United States of America was over. I certainly do not the doubt the momentous appointment of an African American man to the office of President of a country that was built on racial genocide and slavery. A country that less than a century ago, during the life time of my grandparents, did not allow a white child to attend the same school as a black child simply on the basis of race. The elevation of a black man to the highest office in American politics is symbolically another step on the road to tackling the evils of racism.

This blog isn’t meant as an analysis of Obama. He is essentially part of an establishment that favours financial institutions, oil companies and private health insurers above the lives of the less wealthy, and panders to the apparently widespread American belief that the very wealthy deserve massive tax cuts at the behest of the most vulnerable. He is no different in that respect regardless of his skin colour.

I wanted instead to focus on the beliefs of America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, and his complex and often contradictory approach to slavery. Like Jefferson before him, it is almost impossible to figure out where Lincoln stood on the issue, and conflicting books are widespread. Lincoln’s party politics and his true beliefs seem to be confused much of the time, and yet history tends to stick entirely to his party politics regardless of the motives. I wanted to explore those motives more in depth.

Yesterday I went along to see an hour long lecture by Professor Richard Carwardin, the President of Corpus Christi College Oxford and winner of the Lincoln Prize for his book “Lincoln: A life of purpose and power“, a favourite of George W.Bush. Obviously there is a very limited and narrow version of Lincoln’s life one can present in just an hour, but Carwardin alluded to Lincoln as a great emancipator, as if he had been way a head of his time and the progressive champion for the freedom of black slaves, willing to fight a war for its eradication.
I would argue differently.

Lincoln wasn’t happy with the fact that slavery had become an issue by the time he took office. Lincoln told the esteemed journalist Henry Villard;

“I will be damned if I don’t feel almost sorry for being elected when the niggers is the first thing I have to attend to.”

Lincoln was not prepared to go to war for the abolition of slavery in itself. He had agreed to back an amendment to the Constitution, penned by the Representative from Ohio, Thomas Corwin, that would have made it Unconstitutional for Congress to amend rules or abolish slavery. Lincoln backed it.
The Corwin amendment read:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State

In his inaugural address, Lincoln referenced the proposed amendment, stating:

“Holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Interestingly, the amendment passed Congress by the two-thirds majority needed, but was never fully ratified in the State legislatures, and is still up for ratification, as it was never thrown out. If it had been fully ratified, one must wonder just how different the U.S would look today. The fact remains though that up until the outbreak of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln supported a Constitutional Amendment rendering it impossible to abolish the institution of slavery.

The worry from the Republican Party of the Lincoln years, was not so much the moral implications of ethical dilemma of the owning of slave labour, but the economic problems it creates. They worried that slave labour merely worked to undermine wages of the poor white working classes, and just created a new dominant class known as “Slave Power”. They worried that the Slave owning classes in the South were just violent and expansionist people with a goal of Empire. This paranoia wasn’t without merit, but it was borne out of the relatively new Nation’s deep suspicion of Empire and too much power. Lincoln charged that the Southern Democrats and slave owning classes were out to take over Cuba and the war on Mexico seemed to confirm those suspicions. The Civil War Confederate cry of “States rights!!” was simply the right for the very wealthy land owners in the South to keep and abuse people with darker skin, and the right to centralise power within very few hands. Only the free States were fighting for States rights.

Lincoln’s famous signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is doubtful whether the proclamation actually freed any slaves whatsoever. Depending on your source, it was either the greatest achievement of the short Presidency of Lincoln, or it was useless. No one really knows. One thing is for sure, Lincoln signed the proclamation as a further attack on the South (rightfully so). In September 1862, he demanded they return to the Union or he would free their slaves. Not “and i’ll free your slave“. It’s an ultimatum. If you rejoin the USA, you get to keep your slaves… if you don’t, we’re freeing them. He is more concerned here with preserving the Union – an abstract concept – than ending slavery. The Proclamation not only didn’t free slaves in the Confederacy, it didn’t free slaves in the slave holding States in the Union – Kentucky and Maryland.

The Proclamation looked good for Lincoln, as it put real pressure on the Confederacy. France and Britain were very anti-slavery, and he needed support and recognition of the legitimacy of the USA in a war that at the time, no one knew which way it might go. With the support of France and Britain, and so legitimacy, it helped Lincolns case. It was similar in a way, to how old European powers gained legitimacy. When Henry Tudor took the Kingship away from Richard III, he was a nobody on the European stage and England was at civil war, much like America. Tudor needed an air of legitimacy, so he married Elizabeth of York; she happened to be the niece of Richard, and daughter of King Edward IV. This was the legitimacy Henry required, and won. He rather secured himself, by marrying his son – Arthur – off to the daughter – Catherine of Aragon – of the most powerful family in Europe; the King and Queen of Spain. The marriages and alliances were all about protecting himself, and securing his throne, not about love nor about the wellbeing of his Kingdom. Lincoln signed the Emancipation declaration, to protect his Throne by winning the support of the English and the French. Up until the Proclamation was signed, it seemed Britain was on the side of the Confederacy, having been involved in the provision of the British made warships the CSS Alabama and the CSS Florida.

Lincoln knew the Proclamation, which freed black slaves in Confederate States that fell to the Union forces, would compel black slaves and freed slaves to help the Union armies. He stressed in a letter to his friend James C. Conkling:

“I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union.”

The freedom of the slaves with the passing of the 13th Amendment was a tiny ripple in the water. Saying to a group of people who have had no access to education, to family ties, to survival, to anything other than a system that treated them as less than human for so long, that they are now “free”, is worthless. It is not freedom. It would take another 100 years before the real reforms were introduced. Lincoln was not a head of his time. The abolitionists were calling for equality, not just the ending of slavery. Economically, black Americans would be held down for more than a century in place of White privilege. Lincoln may have given them freedom, but he certainly did not give them anything anywhere near equality, and he knew it.

Even the banning of slavery expanding into new territories was a rather obscure policy that was not designed for the sake of the wellbeing of black Americans, rather it was an attempt to keep black people from being shipped to America full stop. It was a white supremacist policy that today would be deplored as vicious and racist. Lincoln, when talking about the banning of slavery expanding to new territories stated that he did not want the United States:

…….to become an asylum for slavery and niggers

The expansion into the West was an opportunity to spread the white race for Lincoln, who had no desire to see black people live there, stating in 1858 in Illinois, that:

in favor of our new territories being in such a condition that white men may find a home … as an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over.

Lincoln was therefore using race as an unnecessary social divide. Race had only really became an issue, during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Up until then, nobody really cared what race you were. White slaves existed in the Colonies way before black slaves. The worry was that they would join hands and rise up, so race was used to divide them. Tell a poor white slave that he is more important in God’s eyes than a poor black slave, and suddenly there is no chance they will rise up together and overthrow the economic powers that hold them both down.

In 1853, Lincoln backed the Illinois State law that banned freed black people from moving to Illinois. They weren’t so free afterall. Lincoln it seems, was obsessed with the division of black and white, and even Mexicans, whom he referred to, out of the blue, for no reason, as:

“most decidedly a race of mongrels. I understand that there is not more than one person there out of eight who is pure white.”

He was a power obsessed, white supremacist.

The great emancipators in the Congress and the abolitionist leaders who pressured and pressured for Lincoln to keep to his line on abolition. Thaddeus Stevens, in the House of Representatives, and Chairman of the Ways and Means committee was a committed Abolitionist. This man was ahead of his time. He helped runaway slaves escape to Canada. He protected the rights of Jewish and Chinese Americans and he defended the rights of Native Americans. Stevens was a hero of the Civil War era and should be remembered as such, far above Lincoln. But one man stood out as great, even beyond that of Thaddeus Stevens, and that man was Charles Sumner, the Senator from Massachusetts.

Charles Sumner absolutely hated the institution of slavery. As did his father before him. He argued that freeing the slaves would achieve nothing, unless it was accompanied by a raft of legislation promoting equal rights both politically and economically. This was 100 years before equal rights began to take shape. He is responsible for one of my favourite quotes from history, that I tend to live by when shaping my political thoughts:

“The Utopias of one age have been the realities of the next.”

Sumner argued in a court case, that segregation was an abomination. The year was 1848. The case was Roberts VS Boston. It lead to the ban on segregation on the basis of race in all public schools in Massachusetts. It was over 100 years before the rest of the country would catch up.

Sumner’s extraordinary career taught me that it is okay to think radically, even if the rest of your contemporaries think that you are an idealist living in a dream land. The contemporary Senators did not like Sumner for his radical ideas on racial integration and equality, one Senator suggested that Sumner was unimportant and should be ignored:

“The ravings of a maniac may sometimes be dangerous, but the barking of a puppy never did any harm.”

It is a myth that Lincoln was a great emancipator and forward thinker and it is a great injustice that men like Charles Sumner go unrecognised and ignored by history.
Sumner’s face should be on Mount Rushmore. Not Lincoln’s.

Anyway, as Sumner argued, The Proclamation was meaningless, the 13th Amendment was the result of much pressure put on the administration. Lincoln himself once remarked quite tellingly:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

He stresses exactly why he felt compelled to free the slaves. It was not on grounds of compassion or freedom or respect for the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, far from it, he did it for the sake of his own power:

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

Abraham Lincoln was not a great emancipator. Nor was he one of the great forward thinking abolitionists of the time. He was a racist and a white supremacist who put his own position and power above that of the rights of a group of people who had different coloured skin. It is quite extraordinary that history teaches us that President Lincoln was one of the great Presidents who ended the horrific institution of slavery. The reality is far more ambiguous. It is much like the celebrating of Columbus day as a great day in American history, when in fact it simply marked the beginnings of a mass genocide. History should be taught with equal weight to both interpretations, if the subject is as ambiguous as that of President Lincoln and the question of slavery.