Should We Celebrate the American Revolution?

by Anthony Gregory
Should We Celebrate the American Revolution?

Note: “Libertarians must unflinchingly oppose Britain’s eighteenth-century imperialism.” Stuff and nonsense! I’m a libertarian, and I feel an uncomplicated pride in the history of England. All governments may be bad, but some are worse than others; and the British Empire was the one bright patch on world history outside Europe. Mr Gregory does much to expose the myth of the American struggle for liberty. He doesn’t go far enough, however. By 1776, slavery was illegal in England. A slave had only to set foot on English soil, and he became a free man. The American Constitution entrenches both slavery and the slave trade. As Samuel Johnson asked of the Declaration of Independence, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” Indeed, I suspect that, had slavery not been abolished in England, the colonists would not have started their rebellion. A commissioner sent over from London, with a warrant to dish out a couple of peerages and a few dozen baronetcies, would soon have had their leaders panting and thumping their tails on the ground.

There were some ghastly Americans outside my railway station yesterday, openly celebrating their Treason Day. One of them tried to give me a copy of the rebel flag. I pushed the thing away and gave her a five minute ticking off. The modern situation of America is not a betrayal of 1776, I explained, but a richly-deserved punishment for it. Bah! SIG

Libertarians often insist Independence Day is really our holiday, which statists have no right to celebrate with a straight face. But perhaps this whole approach is misguided. Maybe the lovers of freedom should be the ones loath to bring out the fireworks.

Surely, conservatives who cherish the Fourth of July while cheering today’s wars have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. The American Revolution was, at best, a revolt against empire. The taxes at issue were being used to finance Britain’s national security state. The colonial rebels didn’t “support the troops” – they resented them. And they resented Britain’s status as the hypocritical world power, which closely resembled the modern United States – an empire claiming the mantle of liberty while smashing its colonial subjects. Today’s conservatives would have likely been partisans of King George. In our own time, true independence would mean Washington, DC, releasing control of its satellites and colonies worldwide.

We could also find it hilarious that Obama Democrats celebrate Independence Day, as though liberty of the old American sort has anything to do with their agenda. They have an implacable thirst for an expansive federal government whose depredations dwarf those of eighteenth-century England.

Indeed, the American Revolution had a distinctive libertarian flavor. The liberal values of anti-imperialism and anti-taxation were central. The grand ideals of legal equality for women, anti-slavery, and religious toleration began to flourish, thanks to the revolutionary spirit in the air. The colonial Americans inspired a philosophical revolution of global significance whose wonderful effects continue to this day. Although no nation has a monopoly over the universal principles of liberty, there are elements in American independence that should give hope to all who hold freedom dear.

But from a libertarian standpoint, the American Revolution has a very dark side. There is also nuance lost in the common narrative. It wasn’t a simple tax revolt, at least not as conventionally limned. For one thing, Americans had resented the 1764 Revenue Act’s reduction of the 1733 Molasses Act tax rate, despising the enforcement mechanism and efficiency of the new law more than the tax itself. Even less understood is the 1773 Boston Tea Party, a revolt against a tax cut – a reduction in British taxes on East India tea, designed to undercut the price of smuggled Dutch tea. Monopoly privileges over the cheaper tea were also involved, but as Charles Adams has written, the Boston Tea Party “was a wanton destruction of private property in an age when private property was held in great esteem . . . [which] was not well received in the colonies. . . . [Benjamin] Franklin was shocked and acknowledged that full restitution should be paid at once to the owners of the tea. Most Americans believed this way, but unfortunately the majority of Americans were to feel the heel of the British boot.” After the rebellion against tea began to spread, with boycotts emerging elsewhere and Boston merchants finally rejecting all tea just in case it was English, the Crown responded with the Coercive Acts. They were implemented by a bolstered presence of the military police state – another reminder to modern Tea Party activists that they should be especially concerned about the law enforcement arm of the state.

The entire uprising against Britain entailed no small dose of hypocrisy, at least on the part of the American leaders. Most everyday colonists who fought and died had a true interest in liberty, having resented the taxes and military presence that naturally resulted from the British war against France in the late 1750s and early 1760s. The first major battle in that war, the Battle of Jumonville Glen, was an ambush of French Canadians spearheaded by George Washington. This siege cascaded into the Seven Years War, a world conflict involving Britain, France, Prussia, Hanover, Portugal, the Iroquois Confederacy, Austria, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Saxony, and another half-dozen countries – a war that lasted three years after hostilities ceased in North America. When the colonists faced the lingering price of this international war, powerful Americans led a revolt against their king, sending poor colonists to die in a war that mostly served the interests of the few, much as they had done a generation earlier to advance the interests of the American elite and British empire, including in the takeover of Canada and Florida.

Americans’ anti-imperial motivations in the Revolution were often genuine, but not always pure. The hostility toward Britain for its Quebec Act, for example, was indeed motivated in part by libertarian sentiment: anger that the colony was losing such common law rights as habeas corpus. But there was also animosity toward the British for reversing its ban on Catholicism in Quebec. The Continental Army’s first major operation was to invade Canada to “liberate” the inhabitants from British rule (and with the intention to subject them to U.S. rule). The Canadians, mostly of French stock, were meanwhile generally neutral toward the war between these two hostile powers. Five thousand Americans died in the narrowly failing effort to conquer Canada, and thousands have been dying in disingenuous U.S. wars of liberation ever since.

Furthermore, the American Revolution ushered in a horrific warfare state whose tyrannical nature never completely subsided after the war. A year before the Declaration of Independence, General Washington began the process of structuring the military along authoritarian lines, instituting gratuitously unequal pay, dealing death to deserters, and even attempting (but failing) to raise the maximum corporal punishment to 500 lashes. “In short,” writes Murray Rothbard in Conceived in Liberty (Vol. 4), “Washington set out to transform a people’s army, uniquely suited for a libertarian revolution, into another orthodox and despotically ruled statist force after the familiar European model.”

The American government relied on a form of conscription and even, by 1779, began impressing people into the navy – the very same oppressive practice Britain had committed to the consternation of the colonists. The Continental Congress flooded the country with paper money, increasing the money supply by 50% in 1775 and causing commensurate rises in prices. Government contractors became incredibly wealthy, leaving most Americans to suffer the brunt of the burden for many years.

Especially brutal were the crackdowns on loyalists, some in league with the British and others, like the Quakers, simply passive opponents of the war. Tories were targeted for special taxes, censored, arrested on mere suspicion and without due process, and thrown into prison camps. Sometimes they were tarred and feathered – a form of torture – or even executed. When they couldn’t be found, their families were sometimes punished. Their estates were liquidated and assets distributed, sometimes in a democratic manner along the lines of anti-feudal land reform, but with much of the loot ending up in the hands of the politically connected. A hundred thousand loyalists had to go into exile, Rothbard estimates, a far higher percentage of the population than those displaced by the supposedly more radical French Revolution.

Even the Declaration of Independence, whose adoption is celebrated on July Fourth, features unfortunate examples of hypocrisy. Consider the condemnation of the British for turning the “savage” American Indians against the colonists. There was some validity to the complaint, but coming from a political leadership that had allied with at least some “savages” not so long before in the war with France, and who soon enough instituted a nearly genocidal policy of expansionist displacement of the Indians, this is no minor defect in the Declaration’s language. Although the British were hardly altruistic angels toward the Indians, they posed a less urgent threat than the Americans. Given this and such British policies as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which forbade white settlers from moving into the Indian Reserve west of the Appalachian Mountains, it is no surprise the Indians mostly fought for England in the American Revolution.

Thomas Jefferson had originally also wanted to include in the Declaration language blaming the British for the importation of slavery into the colonies, which was a libertarian enough sentiment, but also a bit gaudy in light of the simultaneous condemnation of Britain for fomenting “domestic insurrections” by the same slaves. Responding to the Crown’s promises to liberate slaves who defected, and prevented from enlisting in Washington’s army, tens of thousands of slaves fled their American masters during the war. About 20,000 were ultimately freed by the British. If the Southern cause in the War Between the States is at all tainted by the South’s devotion to the institution of slavery, and most modern Americans seem to think it is, the least they can do is be consistent and hold the peculiar institution against the American colonies as well.

Most libertarians admire the Declaration. Even Sam Konkin, the radical anarchist, once told me he had no problem with Jefferson’s famous document, but let us not be blind to the hypocrisy behind its signing. Every time this year, conservative nationalists go on the radio and send out a popular e-mail talking up the dismal fates visited upon many of the signers, to whose selflessness we owe our freedom. The problem is, this is mostly myth. For example, it is often said that nine signers died during the Revolution – but only one actually fell from battle wounds, which were inflicted not by the British, but in a duel with a fellow American. Sixty-nine percent of the signatories had, however, “held colonial office under England,” according to historian Howard Zinn.

Libertarians must unflinchingly oppose Britain’s eighteenth-century imperialism. But this doesn’t mean we must worship the Revolutionary war or the American leaders who manipulated and profited off it, or blind ourselves to the possibility that peace was preferable – even once the war was underway. In 1778, the British empire sent the Carlisle Commission to America to negotiate a truce, offering a qualified independence of the sort that would have eventually amounted to commonwealth status. Such terms would have likely satisfied the colonists a few years earlier. But the American leadership rejected the peace feelers outright, emboldened by their military progress and alliance with France and determined to absorb Canada and turn the war into the first exercise in the new power elite’s quest for hemispheric hegemony.

Of course, London had no rightful claim to control the American colonies, but perhaps a more peaceful mode of independence was possible, one that could have spared five more years of war and thousands of lives. We might be glad America is now “independent” from Britain, although over two centuries later the countries do seem to be connected at the hip as it concerns foreign policy, the grievance that led to the war in the first place.

There’s a great line in The Patriot: “Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king can.” Mel Gibson’s character ultimately signs on to the war effort, but the soundness of his point only becomes clearer looking at early U.S. history. Even the pre-Constitution state governments were tyrannical. Shays’ Rebellion is cited as a failure of the Articles of Confederation to deal with unrest, but we should remember that two of the rebels were executed by the Massachusetts state effectively enough.

In the first five U.S. presidencies, we see the American empire, albeit in embryonic form, begin its centuries-long crusade of aggressive expansion and centralization of power in the capital. George Washington cracked down on the libertarian Whiskey Rebellion, created a national bank, and put Alexander Hamilton, a centralizing statist, in charge of the Treasury. John Adams blatantly violated the First Amendment as much as any president since with his notorious Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson deployed the Marines on an ultimately failed mission in the Barbary war, attempted to suspend habeas corpus and create a department of education, imposed a brutal embargo on English goods that decimated the economy and destroyed privacy rights, and conducted the Louisiana Purchase in bold defiance of the Constitution. James Madison invaded Canada in his war with England, a war in which martial law was enforced in New Orleans and a judge was jailed merely for issuing a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a newspaper editor whose only crime was criticizing the war. Under James Monroe, the U.S. invaded Spanish Florida and adopted a doctrine whereby the U.S. would essentially claim prerogative over the whole of the Western Hemisphere, a colonial pretension whose bloody legacy continues to this day. This could all be blamed on the Constitution rather than the American Revolution itself, but it was the war that brought the “Founding Fathers” to power and allowed them to consolidate authority and take over the nation.

July Fourth celebrations did not become tacky or hypocritical only recently. The day was always a dubious cause of commemoration. The word “holiday” – holy day – clearly has a religious connotation. It is a day set aside for sacred observation. Those who regard Independence Day revisionism as profane should ask themselves which religion is sacrosanct to them. The Fourth of July is ultimately a celebration of the American nation-state’s birthday. It is a ritual in the U.S. civic religion. This is why it has been a militarist tradition since 1777, when the occasion was marked in Philadelphia with 13-gun salutes and imagery of the battle flag everywhere. The greeting card holidays might seem unworthy of mention alongside Christmas, Hanukkah and Easter. But Independence Day, even more than the politically correct and secular days celebrated every year, resembles an actual incidence of blasphemy.

There is a heroic side to the American Revolution, and surely no U.S. war since has been nearly as just in its cause. But the political shenanigans that led to war, the war itself, and its aftermath all deserve more criticism. Sadly enough, those who support the federal government’s domestic ambitions and foreign occupations while waving the flag on Independence Day are only as hypocritical as the colonists who tarred and feathered their antiwar countrymen in the name of liberty, the soldiers who invaded Canada in the name of anti-imperialism, the rebels who destroyed privately owned tea in the name of property rights, the Founders who waged a war against tyranny only to create a regime as formidable as King George’s, or the Father of our Country who started an unnecessary and tragic world war and then led a revolution in refusal to pay the bills for it.

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40 responses to “Should We Celebrate the American Revolution?

  1. Julie near Chicago

    Lefties are lefties, whether they put on ersatz libertarian lipstick or not.

    Nobody died and made libertarians God. Especially not the lefty ones.

    There’s nothing as satisfying as trashing your parents, anyway — all the thrill of being an Angry Young Man. And then, if you want, you can go home and they take you in anyway. In America, we’ll even stand up for your right to s**t on us. (Doesn’t mean we won’t return the favor, of course.)

    It’s really too bad that Mr. Gregory and his like-minded confreres have to put up with the mere humans with whom he has to share the planet.

    I don’t mind people’s pointing out that this or that “should” or “should not” have been done, if it’s said either in a tone of sadness at falling short of perfection, or of dispassionate fact-telling for the purpose of analysis so as to avoid future mistakes. But screeds like this are nothing but hatred served up like sewage. They serve no purpose except to tear down the whole country, to present it as a project of hypocrisy and lying and outright evil, and I think so that the Mr. Gregories can feel properly sorry for themselves as Victims while also feeling properly self-righteous. Being proud of yourself or your tribe or your heritage is, after all a sin. You’re no better than anybody else, and worse than most.

    I’ve never heard this sort of thing except from the golem of the Farthest Left, the ones who want, really, only one thing, and that is, to Destroy.

  2. The American view is that the Revolutionary War was a ‘good thing’, and gave them Independence. This is what they have been taught. It is what they believe.

    Most do not realize that half the population at the time fought on the Home-Country side against the rebels. Most also do not realize that the rebels were, in the main, conned into war by a small oligarch group intent on lining their own pockets .

    It was a sadness to most in Britain at the time that this American Colonial enterprise to which so many had invested so heavily in treasure, family and blood over so many generations should suddenly decide it was an errant son who hated his Parents and ran off with the family treasures. The Oligarch Colonials simply ‘Nationalised’ the efforts of others.

    The ‘Nationalisation’ of American investments in other countries by those other countries – countries that America did not even conceive and bring to birth, for instance in South America – are met with howls of American outrage.

    Hello. There’s a word for that.

    Had those Colonists waited a while, as ‘favourite son’ of the British Empire it would been given Independence and have inherited a third of the World, united.

    But, as an Australian I am happy that we received the benefit of the following investment efforts by our Parent nation and easy Independence.

    The 4th of July should be remembered as the day America shot itself in the foot.

  3. I have mixed feelings. One-all Revolutions are wrong. I wish the English,French.Amercan,Russian,Irish and Chinese ones had all failed.Two-the US constitution and Bill of Rights are the finest documents ever written for the governance of free men. Just substitute a monarch for the President. Three-if America had stayed British -imagine the emnpire. The world would have been better off in every way!

  4. Hugo Miller

    Sean, you say “The American Constitution entrenches both slavery and the slave trade.” Can you elaborate? Thanks.

    • American Constitution, Article 1, Section 2:

      “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

      Article 1 Section 9:

      The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

      Article 4, Section 2:

      No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.

      Note the po-faced avoidance of the “S” word. From a cursory reading, you’d never think how often the “Founding Fathers'” prating about liberty was punctuated by the crack of the slave whip. You can see the continuity within a people who make up ugly circumlocutions for torture and war crimes and concentration camps, and then deny, on the basis of their new words for them, that the things exist. From slavery, to eugenic laws and apartheid, to civil asset forfeiture, not only has the American Constitution failed to protect threatened rights, but it was never intended to protect them. ^

  5. Hugo Miller

    “Thomas Jefferson …… attempted to suspend habeas corpus…”. Van you elaborate on this?
    And this; “..and conducted the Louisiana Purchase in bold defiance of the Constitution..”

  6. Hugo Miller

    And this; “…….the U.S. would essentially claim prerogative over the whole of the Western Hemisphere, a colonial pretension whose bloody legacy continues to this day. This could all be blamed on the Constitution……”
    Thank you.

  7. Hugo Miller

    Having had time to read the other responses, I’m with Miss Julie from Chicago. Alexis de Tocqueville once said America’s great strength is the ability to repair its errors. In my experience (and I am British but legally a US resident, though spending most of my time in the UK), the American attitude is if there’s a problem let’s do what we can to fix it, whereas the British response is to whinge about how awful things are. And nothing demonstrates this better than the sour note of the main article and some of the responses to it.
    This shift in attitudes still hits me with a jolt each time I cross the Atlantic.
    When I was young I used to share this contempt for the US, but as my understanding has grown I have come to recognise the US Constitution as a sublime document, and the only thing propping up the free world. And Americans CARE about their Constitution and are prepared to fight to defend it. And thank God for that.

  8. A country that bans beer is not a free country. That is my opinion of the USA.

  9. Hugo Miller

    And prohibition. But when it plainly failed in its objectives they repealed it. I think I posted the other day that Ohio is poised to become the thirteenth State to ban speed cameras and red light cameras. Yes, America has many faults. But they can (mostly) be fixed. There is a procedure for the Constitution to be amended by popular will (two procedures actually I believe). There is a 28th Amendment being floated at the moment (to say that all laws shall apply equally to Members of Congress as to the public). But EU officials are immune from prosecution, and they will stay that way because it is illegal for us to try to change the EU Constitution.
    I could go on ….

    • Alcohol prohibition is about the only Progressive moral imposition that has been repealed; even so America remains a nation with an absurdly high drinking age (21!) and barmy blue laws about “corrupting a minor” by letting them have half a shandy. It failed because, unusually, the Proggie tranzi machine broke and they couldn’t get other key nations (e.g. ourselves) to join in, a mistake they singularly avoided with their other grand idea, drug prohibition.

      Which they somehow managed despite no Constitutional amendment nor authorisation.

      Anyway, the key point is that if you look at what Sean describes as “20th century moral panics”, you’ll find them all originating in and/or driven by America. Including the paedohysteria that has us sending peolpe to prison for cartoons. Second wave feminism. Global Warming. The Racism hysteria. And the whole suite we call “political correctness”.

  10. Anyhoo, I daresay the important thing is to remember that the American Revolution wasn’t a revolution, it was a secession. Which is something the American government were not prepared to indulge when the South tried it, a little under a century later.

  11. Hugo Miller

    …”Anyway, the key point is that if you look at what Sean describes as “20th century moral panics”, you’ll find them all originating in and/or driven by America. Including the paedohysteria that has us sending peolpe to prison for cartoons. Second wave feminism. Global Warming. The Racism hysteria. And the whole suite we call “political correctness”….
    America is such a nation of contradictions. ‘Global Warming’ or ‘Climate Change’ or whatever you want to call it is more or less old hat in the US. Or at any rate there are any number of high profile politicians who are prepared to publicly denounce it, unlike the UK where it has become the new Established religion. Racism hysteria? I don’t think so. Remember that the US, unlike the UK, has a history of racial tensions, which in my opinion were only made worse by the regrettable result of the War of Northern Aggression (same principle as Germany post-Versailles). Don’t get me started on the Civil War!
    I live on the edge of the Bible Belt and I have a friend, quite a young modern chap, who believes quite literally that Negroes originated when Noah sent his son out into the jungle as a punishment to ‘consort with the beasts of the jungle’ and cozied up to chimpanzees. He also views homosexuality as an utter abomination. My point is that he can (and does) publicly express these opinions, which he would never be allowed to do in this country.
    The paedo business I know nothing about – did that originate in the US? And as for Political Correctness – well, in California maybe, but down among the Rednecks – no way!!
    And the American aversion to alcohol I would suggest is Puritanical rather than Progressive. I’m no Puritan but I must admit it is quite pleasant not to see public drunkenness and vomiting in the street. And not to be bombarded with four letter words on tv for that matter.
    Talking of aversions, the early Americans had an aversion to the word ‘cock’; so a tap (cock) becomes a faucet; a cockroach is a ‘roach’; and a cock as in cockerel has become a rooster.
    And this is the country that allows public nakedness on the streets of San Francisco. Cocks a-plenty on display there. As I said, America is full of contradictions.

    • Yes, and it’s those contradictions that are the driver.

      I just started writing a great long comment and deleted it. But here’s a simple question. You said-

      My point is that he can (and does) publicly express these opinions, which he would never be allowed to do in this country.

      Who invented the concept of “hate speech”? From which nation did it arise?

  12. Hugo Miller

    Dunno. Oceania? I have a horrible feeling you’re going to tell me the US of A. If so I’ll have to ask you to explain it to me!

    • It arose in the USA, among the post-marxists forging Political Correctness.

      That’s the explanation.

  13. Hugo Miller

    Can you be a bit more specific? And what is a post-Marxist exactly?

  14. Justin Hall

    As an American I have always maintained that the English in fact won the Revolutionary War as it is called over here. My reasoning is thus, a group of English settlers threw out a German king (George III) and his hired German mercenaries from the country.

  15. An odd mistake by Sean Gabb on slavery and the U.S. Constitution . The three fifths clause was a concession to the ANTI slavery people. The pro slavery people wanted slaves counted as whole people for the awarding of Congressional Seats (and so on) – and if they had been it is hard to see how slavery could have been ended.

    Indeed the hard core anti slavery people did not want slaves counted at all – for obvious reasons.

    By the way – there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution supporting the slave trade, which was why banning was possible.

    Frederick Douglas, I his youth, fell for this stuff about the Constitution – till he actually read accounts of the process by which it made (and understood what the three fifths was actually about). Although I still believe that Benjamin Franklin’s harder line was the correct one.

    Most Founders believed that slavery would vanish in a few years (even the slave owner Founders believed that) – Franklin was one of the exceptions. He feared that if hard action was not taken at once – then things would get worse (not better) over time. And so it proved – with the next generation of Southern leaders declaring that slavery was a “positive good” (a position that would have horrified the generation of Washington and Jefferson). The chance to end slavery (with less pain) was lost as the position of the new generation was so much harder than the position of Southern leaders at the time of Independence.

    For those who still talk of “Lincoln’s War” – the killing actually started in “Bleeding Kansas” before Lincoln was elected. Conflict was going to come – but that the three fifths clause did was (eventually) hand the House of Representatives and the Presidency to the anti slavery side.

    The American War of Independence the most just war America has ever fought?

    What about Korea or Vietnam? Surely Communists are rather worse than George III and Lord North? Certainly there were local Communists in Korea or Indochina – but there was also local supporters of George III in the American colonies (rather a lot of them actually). For example the famous Battle of King’s Mountain the British commander (Ferguson) was from Britain, but the vast majority of the “British” troops were actually Americans (although not the same sort of Americans as the “Rednecks” who shot them to bits – and, whatever mistakes the American leadership made, at least the Patriot leaders actually wanted to win – in Vietnam victory was a forbidden concept THAT was the moral failing).

    As for the United States always being a very military place – that is simply not true.

    For most of the 19th century the United States had a tiny army – even in the 1930s the American army was smaller than that of even small European countries.

    Normally America has relied on “Rednecks” (originally the Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots) to do the fighting – as any examination of the medal rolls (and the death rolls) shows.

    For better or worse, fighting (including using lethal force) is part of the culture of this group – other population groups have to be trained to be effective soldiers (and there is normally a shortage of time).

    Although note to all soldiers – British as well as American.

    If the political leadership say that the objective of a war is not victory (the destruction of the enemy) but is a “political settlement” – just walk away.

    You are being betrayed.

  16. On the death of the United States Constitution.

    Some date the decline to the late 19th century – specifically to the Second Greenback Case.

    In the first Greenback case Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase (who would have been a better choice for President in 1860 than Lincoln – but that is another story) de facto rules against himself (in his previous capacity as Treasury Sec during the Civil War) on fiat money.

    The Constitution states that Congress may only “coin” money (not print it – as the “not worth a Continental” Continental Congress had) and that only “gold or silver” coin may be legal tender in any State.

    However, the case was run again (with extra Judges) and Chief Justice Chase was defeated.

    It did not seem important at the time – as there were only a limited number of “Greenbacks” still in circulation, However, if the text of the Constitution can be over tuned simply by appointing judges who will vote to do so……..

    More conventionally the death of the United States Constitution (as an instrument to really limit the size of government can be dated from the 1930s and 1940s).

    Terrible things had been done before, for example Prohibition, but by Constitutional Amendment . In 1933 Franklin Roosevelt decided he wanted to steal privately owned monetary gold (out of the goodness of his heart he would let people keep their wedding rings and so on) and rip up the gold clauses in contracts.

    Neither President Roosevelt of Congress had any Constitutional power to do these things – indeed the Constitution of the United States had been created to prevent such things being done (by with the Federal government or the State government.

    However, in 1935 the Supreme Court, de facto, ruled (by five votes to four) that Franklin Roosevelt could do these blatantly unconstitutional things. Unofficially some people (such as the Chief Justice?) argues that as the Supreme Court had just struck down the National Recovery Agency of the National Industrial Recovery Act it could not ALSO strike down the gold stealing and contract breaking. To void all of Mr Roosevelt’s major policies would be seen as a judicial coup and ……..

    What was the National Recovery Agency?

    It was General Johnson’s jackbooted “Blue Eagle” thugs – who went around making up regulations (with the force of law) under a vague “Enabling Act” of Congress.

    The Supreme Court ruled that such Acts were unconstitutional – the Congress could not just say “so and so can what laws they like”, only Acts of Congress had the force of law, and they had to be specific.

    Franklin Roosevelt denounced this as a “horse and buggy” view of the Constitution – things had “evolved” you see (evolved to the economic polices of Louis XIV – with the state telling everyone what to do)

    “Well it was stuck down – Fascism defeated, losing gold as money was the price that had to be paid”.

    But was it really struck down – or did the Vampire return?

    A series of World War II judgements, de facto, reversed the 1935 judgement – they allowed “delegated legislation” using the excuse of “regulate interstate commerce” to justify just about anything.

    True things were handled in a more civilised way than the drunken General Johnson and his Blue Eagle thugs….. but the principle is the same (law without any specific vote in Congress – just vague enabling Acts)

    Lastly there is the abuse of “common defence and general welfare” – in the actual Constitution (the written document) this is the PURPOSE of the specific spending powers given to the Congress by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States.

    Yet under the “evolved”, “living Constitution” of Harvard Law School Case Law it has come to mean a “general welfare spending power” – i.e. that the Federal government may spend unlimited sums of money on anything.

    A surer road to de facto (if not legal) bankruptcy would be hard to think of.

  17. On Ian’s point – the 18th Amendment was passed in (if my memory serves) 1919 – and repealed in 1933 (Franklin Roosevelt gained some popularity from the end of Prohibition – although repealing the Constitutional Amendment has nothing to do with him).

    A more long lasting (and Constitutionally problematic) matter is the Federal “War On Drugs”.

    The Congress has no Constitutional power to ban drugs – it is not the British Parliament the basic point of the Constitution was to LIMIT government. (hence the British Parliament can spend what it likes on anything – but that is not supposed to be how the American Congress operates) and there has been no Constitutional Amendment to give it this power.

    Yet vast numbers of people have been sent to prison on Federal drugs charges.

    It is also not true that Constitution does not limit the power of State governments – it does (see, for example, Article One, Section Eight) and did so long before the 14th Amendment (which settled the dispute over whether the Bill of Rights applied to State governments as well as the Federal government).

    When did liberty reach its peak in the United States?

    It varies depending on what State one is talking about – for example in New Hampshire it is after 1819 when the town Church tax is abolished (remember, contrary to the mythology, States could have Established churches if they wanted to do so), but before the Federal increase in the tax on imports in 1824 and 1828 – but…..

    The tax on imports was later cut back – (for example the tariff of 1857 is vastly lower than that of 1828) so for many Northern States (the ones that did not go in for STATE EDUCATION – the great mistake of 19th century liberalism) the peak of liberty is just before the Civil War of 1861-5.

    This includes supposed “Slave States” in the North such as New Jersey and Deleware – where the slaves were a handful of people born before the cut off date (in State legislation) after which no one could be born a slave and yet were still alive in 1860 (this was a matter of being caught in a legal limbo – not a matter of an economic system based upon slavery).

    However, in many Southern States slavery was the foundation of the economy. One can not really talk of “liberty” in the South (although Southern apologists did) – as to defend the institution of slavery, everything (from freedom of speech to freedom of religion, to…..) was hit if it was felt it might undermine the Slave Power.

    In the Civil War Lincoln is often attacked for his abuses of the legal process (and they were gross abuses), but it is often forgotten that in the Confederacy the legal system just collapsed (Rothbardians tend to ignore CONFEDERATE government policies) – outside North Carolina (where Governor Vance made a sincere effort to try and preserve something like the Rule of Law) legal order (as either a Roman or a Common lawyer would understand it) just did not exist in the Confederacy. And had been highly perverted even before the war.

    For all the (very large) faults of the “”Gilded Age” liberty in the South was greater in the South in the 1870s (yes even with Federal troops there) and 1880s (Federal troops gone and the South under the control of “Boubon” Democrats) than it was before the war (especially for black people – but, in some ways, for white people also) – however the rise of Populist movement (with its Jim Crow laws) undermined that.

    However, one must remember just how small the Federal government (indeed government in general was) in the United States – a point libertarians often forget.

    Ever as late 1912 the Federal government was about 2% of output – and all levels of government were less than 10% of output. And even as late as 1928 the Federal government was about 3% of output and all levels of government about 12% of output.

    Even by British standards (let alone German standards in 1912 or in 1928) this was a very small government – a government vastly different from the bloated out-of-control government that exists today.

    Indeed I would go so far as to say that one can not really call the United States a “Welfare State” till after the Acts of Congress of 1965 (Medicare, Medicaid and so on – and the art subsidies, and the messing up of immigration and so on). 1965 is the year I would argue when the changes are made that lead (over time) to the United States no longer being “functional” (to take the word of T. Parsons – although I do not know what his view of the changes made in 1965 was).

    To end an optimistic note…..

    Perhaps the great days of some Southern States are actually going to be – in the future.

    Look at (for example) who the Governor and (now) one of the United States Senators from South Carolina now are.

    Nor is South Carolina out of step – as there are more elected black (and other non-white) Republicans in the South now than there have been sinc the days of Reconstruction in the 1870s – and they are sincere in their desire to roll back government (which certainly was NOT true in the 1870s).

    Should the United States break up (which it may – we shall have to see) some Southern States (and Western States) may achieve a level of liberty vastly above what exists now.

  18. Ian asked where the idea of “hate speech” comes from.

    it comes from Germany – specifically from the Frankfurt School of Marxism.

    Even today hate speech is illegal in Germany (indeed in much of Europe – for example there is a letter from a nasty little totalitarian representing the “Council of Europe” in the present edition of the Economist magazine – remember the details of such documents as the European Convention and the International Declaration of Human Rights make them very different from the American Bill of Rights, they look similar at first glance, but when one looks closely there is a vast ocean between them just as there was between the pro civil society American Revolution and the anti Civil Society French Revolution) – it is not illegal in the United States.

    The good side of Germany is at least people there know of the Marxist origin of such things (and pre Marxist origin – one can see much of the Frankfurt School stuff in Rousseau and other 18th century thinkers). Many Americans are so deluded that they think that P.C. has something to do with liberalism.

    The stealing of the words “liberal” and “liberalism” by the collectivists in the United States (by Richard Ely, T. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and so on – all vastly influenced by German thought) was one of the many depressing elements of the 20th century.

    And one that did NOT happen in Germany or France (or Italy).

    In continental Europe the word “liberal” is still understood as the OPPOSITE to the doctrine that the state should hit “the rich” and “the corporations” for the (supposed) good of “the poor”.

    Liberalism teaches the harmony of long term rightly understood interests between rich and poor, employer and employee – and teaches freedom of speech

    Yet in the United States (and, to some extent, in Britain) the collectivists (the supporters of “Social Justice”) have managed to steal the words “liberal” and “liberalism”.

    This may be due to a problem with language.

    In continental Europe people still seem to understand that liberal comes from the Latin libertas (liberty).

    Whereas in the United States (and, to some extent, in Britain) the word “liberal” is now dominated by the English “broad and generous” – even generous with the money of other people.

    Do you “support the poor”,accept the delusion that poverty is caused by “the rich” and “the corporations”? Do you want the state to help the downtrodden? Women, ethnic minorities, …. Do you give a senile welcome to anything that calls itself “progress”?

    Then, in the United States, you are a “liberal”.

    And, yes Ian, this is a bad thing about the United States.

    And a similar effort is under way to pervert the words “libertarian” and “libertariaismism”.

  19. Ian asked where the idea of “hate speech” comes comes from Germany – specifically from the Frankfurt School of Marxism.

    Which had precisely zero influence until it was picked up by the American Left (via the nurturing ot the Frankfurters at Columbia University). Ideas often grown far away from their initial homes. Communism is a German idea too, but our enemies in the Cold War were not Germans, but Soviet Russia. In that case and sense, its initial German origin is irrelevant. What matters is who picked up the ball and ran with it; which was the Soviets (and Chinese, and sundry smaller others).

    Hate speech. Why hate speech? It’s that American origin again. The US Constitution has that word in it- speech– and thus Americans seeking to impose totalitarian ideologies have to reinterpret that word to mean something else. Hence hate speech. It’s an American ideological construct.

    Now, I have read the US Constitution, and the First Amendment is a very straightforward statemenr regarding speech. But wiser constitutionalists than I have discovered that it actually means two categories of speech- good speech and bad speech or, in the terminology, “protected” and “unprotected” speech. I cannot find reference to this anywhere, but I have not seen the original document, so I presume that these extra clauses are written on the document with lemon juice, and wise US Supreme Court Judges have held it over heat and seen them. Or they have magic vision that sees words that the authors forgot to put in, but really wanted to, or something.

    So anyway, having discovered this invisible writing regarding “protected” and “unprotected” speech, American activists thus need to divide all speech into one or the other categories, and demonstrate that the speech that they think ought to be banned is in the damned category.

    Hence “hate speech”. Hate speech is not free (protected) speech. It is damned speech. So, the term “hate speech”. Developed by Americanns, for Americans.

    It’s American.

  20. I repeat it is illegal in Germany and much of Europe – it is not illegal in the United States.

    As for the origins of the perversion of the ideas of freedom – turning into collectivism. They are not American either.

    They are from Rousseau and others. And they had huge influence on history long before the United States was a world player. The central idea is that humans are free COLLECTIVIELY – and that the central threat to “freedom” is being an employee of another individual or a private organisation (rather than the collective).

    The French Revolution and the American Revolution are fundamentally different – something that Jefferson failed to grasp, but John Adams (in spite of his other faults) did grasp.

    Just as the American Bill of Rights (and the tradition that produced it) is fundamentally different and fundamentally opposed to the European Convention and the International Declaration on Human Rights – and the people that produced these nice sounding things (people such as Harold Laski and E.H. Carr).

    They sound the same (just as the French Revolutionary RIghts of Man sounds wonderful) – till one starts to examine the exact wording……

    The Rousseau influenced (but NOT totally Rousseau dominated) writers in France may have unwittingly left gaping holes in the Declaration – but with people such as Harold Laski and E.H. Carr it was quite deliberate.

    The liberal tradition still has some influence in Europe – but it has always been pushed by the collectivist tradition.

    For example, both the movement to German and to Italian unification were always about bigger (not smaller) government. The ideas of the great liberal economists and philosophers never really found traction among the European “masses”

    Still back to your specific point.

    I suspect one could find more people who believe in freedom of speech in a small population American State (say South Dakota), or perhaps even in a small American town (say Bedford, New Hampshire) than one could find in most of Europe.

    In what European country do large crowd of people come to the streets arguing for LESS government?

    Certainly America has its Brownshirts (“Occupy”, the union thugs and so on) but it also has large numbers of pro freedom people – Europe does not (at least not people who are willing to show their commitment to freedom publically). Perhaps the Countryside Alliance was the closest any European country got to a pro freedom mass movement.

    The tragedy of the America is that, at least among the young (the students), the anti freedom people may outnumber the pro freedom people.

    The United States has become more European – but not in a good way. In a “it is the fault of the rich” way.

    The old America was not like that – the old America is shown in the “Middletown” (really Munsie Indiana) sociological studies.

    The sociologists were frustrated by the lack of class (rich-versus-poor) feeling – but they honestly reported the lack of it. The “workers” (even the unemployed) of “Middletown” did not blame “the rich” or “the corporations” for their troubles – they either blamed the government, or themselves, or bad luck.

    They were not “European” – but in recent decades (thanks to intense “education” and media propaganda, especially from the entertainment media) many Americans have become more “European” in their attitudes.

    As such America may well be doomed – and need to break up.

    Where at least the States where “European” (in the bad sense) ideas do not yet dominate have some sort of chance.

  21. I wrote a reply but it did not appear.

  22. Hugo Miller

    Fascinating stuff. Paul writes;
    “More conventionally the death of the United States Constitution (as an instrument to really limit the size of government can be dated from the 1930s and 1940s).”
    I have heard (but I haven’t checked) that ante-bellum Constitutional amendments began with “Congress shall not …” whereas after the war, amendments tended to say “Congress shall have the power to….”.
    As for Hate Speech, the Hitler Youth had a marching song “The flag flutters before us” which I find musically most attractive. Unfortunately this tune is banned in Germany, so if I were to go to Germany and absent-mindedly start humming this delightful tune I could be arrested. One more reason not to go to Germany I guess. I don’t know of any tunes which are banned in the USA. Ok, some radio stations have at various times banned songs by the Dixie Chicks and Steve Earle, but that’s just freedom of choice.
    In my experience, the ‘Old America’ is far from dead. I have never known the country so polarised as it is in the reign of King Barry. There really are two Americas now. Time for another Civil War perhaps?

  23. As Ian would point out – whilst the law does not (yet?) ban speech and music in America intense social pressure can (and does) come from the leftist activists – including the vile man who is President of he United States. And they may find some “legal” way to hit you (endless IRS audits – or being arrested on some “totally unrelated matter”. as happened to the maker of the Muhammed Youtube film who the Obama regime PRETENDED was responsible for the Bengahzi attack).

    I believe in freedom of speech – for example I have seen a drunken Islamist in Jerusalem (he did not see the irony of being drunk and being an Islamist) screaming at young Jewish children that they should be killed – and I do not think the man should have been arrested (actually he was not arrested – everyone ignored him – including the young children, who did not bat an eyelid), let alone shot. Although Israeli soldiers (unlike American soldiers after the Clinton Executive Order – that left them disarmed and helpless in situations such as the Fort Hood attack) normally carry their rifles around with them (even on the train or when they go to watch a film at the cinema) it is just what one does. And indeed there were several young ladies with automatic rifles not far from the drunken Islamist.

    And if Germans want to sing Nazi songs or march under that inverted Indian sun thing – fine by me.

    Still turning to better matters.

    I support the 13th Amendment and the 15th Amendment.

    The 14th Amendment carries a lot of dispute now – and it has indeed been used in terrible ways in recent years. However, at the time, it was thought very libertarian – indeed some judges denounced it as “bringing the ideas of Herbert Spencer into the United States Constitution”.

    Actually what it mostly was about was finishing the dispute over whether the Bill of Rights (and so on) applied to the State governments (not just the Federal government), but the 14th Amendment is poorly drafted and also contains other stuff – so count me as “unsure” about it.

  24. Not time for a Civil War – but it may be time to leave peacefully.

    Try pinning the “racist” and “sexist” smears at the person who is Governor of South Carolina now.

    If King Barry tries that – the soldiers will laugh at him.

    Contrary to Rothbardian propaganda – the Confederacy really was about slavery, the modern South (and West) is NOT.

    So should the people in such States decide to leave the Union – demands that the U.S. Army go in and liberate the slaves will be met with the response…. “what slaves?”

  25. Hugo Miller

    1) I really shouldn’t post late at night – using the words ‘Hitler Youth’ and ‘charming’ in the same sentence is decidedly weird. I meant ‘catchy’. The Hitler Youth marching song is a ‘catchy’ tune!
    2) I still think it simplistic to say the Confederacy was ‘about slavery’. The Confederate Constitution banned the import of slaves, but it did allow slave owners to transport their slaves to the new territories in the west, whereas Lincoln and the Republicans forbade it. There is a question mark over the motive of the Republican Party for this – at the time it described itself as the ‘Party of the white man’, and one must ask whether the Republicans were motivated by compassion for the slaves, or whether they just wanted to keep the Niggers out of the new territories. Either way, this posed a threat to the future prosperity of the Southerners.
    Also, there is the point that Lincoln was imposed on the South by the Yankee vote – his name wasn’t even on the ballot paper in the South (except for one State where he got 2% of the vote). One can understand the resentment that ensued.
    It is interesting to note that, to take just two examples, the ‘Thomas Jefferson’ was a Confederate warship, and Robert E Lee named his son George Washington Lee. I believe the South remained more true to the ideals of the American Revolution than the North. Lincoln is often credited with ‘saving the Union’. In my opinion he destroyed it. What had been a voluntary association of States became voluntary at the point of a gun. Similarly, Thomas Jefferson once said that ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’. Lincoln obtained this consent at gunpoint.
    If this war was fought to end slavery, I believe the cure was worse than the disease.

  26. The Constitution of the Slave Holding States of North America forbad non Slave States joining it (even if they wanted to). And the Slave Power planned to expand – both into Latin America and into the American West (that was true long before 1861)

    Had the killing not started in Kansas it would have started in Colorado or some other place – but the killing would have started (and even if Lincoln had never been born). To the new generation of Southern leaders slavery was a “positive good” – a “good” they did not even want to keep to themselves (their whole plan depended on spreading slavery).

    Hopefully more killing can be avoided and things can be done peacefully (however hypocritical those words are coming from me), if reform can not happen (say a Rand Paul victory in 2016) then the Union may have to come to an end. But not by playing into the hands of the left – they would like nothing better than to associate any effort at secession with Jefferson Davis and co. They will do their best to smear any effort as “racist” and “sexist” *(etc).

    Make sure that blacks, Hispanics and women are front and centre in any secession effort. Cynical? Yes – but sometimes one must be cynical.

  27. Hugo Miller

    Interesting. You say “Had the killing not started in Kansas it would have started in Colorado or some other place – but the killing would have started…” But everywhere else in the world (as far as I know) slavery ended or was abolished without bloodshed. Why was it necessary to fight a war to end it in America.
    My suspicion is that Lincoln, just like the British Redcoats a hundred years earlier, were not intending to fight a war, merely to suppress a rebellion. Just as young men marched off to war in 1914 promising to be back by Christmas; and Hitler banned the development of weapons that would take longer than one year, because the war would be over by then. Not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I’m no military historian, but this seems to be part of the human condition, as it were.

  28. Lincoln was not really involved in Kansas (he was not really a big anti slavery man, although his mother was in an anti slavery church, Salmon P. Chase was the big anti slavery person) – the war would have started (somewhere) even if Lincoln had never been born.

    Jefferson Davis and the others were not like British West Indian planters, or Brazilian estate owners.

    They were fighting men. Just as their forefathers were – killers (no insult meant – killers are often vital to have around).

    At the time of Independence, and for a time after, the Southern leadership were also fighting men – but they believed (Patrick Henry and the rest) that slavery was wrong. They did a dance and hoped that slavery would just go away on its own (without getting rid of it costing them).

    Basically the last of that generation was dying by 1860 – Senator Benton (the man who said “President Jackson, yes I remember him – I shot him once, a fine man” – and he was NOT being ironic) had come to believe that slavery was wrong – but the young generation thought him a person from another age.

    Governor (formally President) Sam Houston believed that slavery was wrong – and he did not support secession. But people in Texas just worked round him (pretended he was not there).

    The young generation of leaders had come to believe that slavery was a “positive good” it had become their DOCTRINE – and they were fighting men (unlike slave owners elsewhere). No more evasion and dancing around (“slavery is wrong, but…….”) no slavery was wonderful – and they were going to spread its blessings…..

    They were not going to be convinced by intellectual arguments – that chance had been thrown away decades before (there Sean Gabb is CORRECT). Ben Franklin was correct – whatever the cost of ending slavery in the 1700s would have been (stuff them with gold if need be) it would be cheaper than waiting – the moment for action was NOW (the time of the Constitutional Convention) promise them the profits of the sale of public lands, promise them anything (just get them to sign on the dotted line that no one born after X date would be a slave), pay in gold now – or pay in blood later.

    By 1861 – the only argument that would count was lead.

    After the event Jefferson Davis pretended the issue was not slavery – it was big government and centralisation (liar and hypocrite – Jefferson Davis in office was vastly more of a big government centraliser than Lincoln was). And Woodrow Wilson (for very different reasons) pretended it was to – not because Wilson favoured secession (the Georgia man did not), he just wanted to pretend to that the Civil War had created a “new government” – the new government that he was actually trying to create himself (thus showing that it has NOT already been created).

    It is ironic that Rothbardians use the “historical” arguments of Woodrow Wilson – without either knowing the source of this stuff, or the motives Wilson had for writing it.

    For all his (many) faults – Lincoln was no Woodrow Wilson.

    Lincoln did not believe the Declaration of Independence was a tract for the times with no universal or eternal principles.

    Lincoln did not believe that basic principles did not exist – that all that mattered was “evolved” makeshifts for the times. Although, at the same time, Wilson had some universal principles of his own (bad ones). Just as the German “Historical School” denied the existence of universal principles – whilst smuggling in its own (statist) universal principles by the back door.

    And (whilst not being Salmon P. Chase) Lincoln did not believe in slavery – on the quiet Woodrow “New Freedom” Wilson did believe in slavery.

    It was not just a matter of being obsessed with black bottoms and white bottoms not sitting on the same toilet seats (Wilson was the first President to insist that blacks and whites have segregated toilets in Federal buildings) – it was a lot more than that.

    The works of Woodrow Wilson (even the real source of the view that the Civil War was about the profits of Northern businessmen and so on – yes he had things both ways) are a very bad source on the Civil War – just as Woodrow Wilson was a very bad source of information on every other subject (economics, political philosophy, theology – you name the subject and Wilson wrote on it, and what he wrote was wildly untrue.

    He even wrote on Edmund Burke – managing to imply that Burke supported the very things that he (Burke) spent his life opposing.

    Truly Woodrow Wilson was an academic – a child of Plato, the Prince of Lies.

    I would not have supported Lincoln at the 1860 Convention – and I think his time as President was full of errors (and worse), but he was no Woodrow Wilson.

  29. By the way you are correct – Lincoln (and many others) were misled by how easily the Swiss Central government had won in 1847. Few, on either side, thought the war would last four years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Lincoln (the horrors of war leading to the religious beliefs of his mother coming to the surface of the once worldy Illinois politician) came to believe that God was punishing America for its sins (especially the sin of slavery).

    Sherman had predicted the horrors – but he was thought to be insane (indeed he did suffer from depression – much as Cromwell did)

    When Sherman (who had burned and killed more in the South than anyone else) died – his enemy-friend (yes men can be enemies and friends – like Jackson and Benton) General J. went to the funeral.

    it was a bitterly cold day but J. refused to cover his head.

    “If this were my funeral and General Sherman was here – he would not cover his head”.

    He joined Sherman in death a little while later.

  30. Hugo Miller

    Fascinating as always. You haven’t mentioned Eli Whitney & the Cotton Djin. I understood that slavery was on the way out till this invention rendered it more profitable.
    But the central point, surely, is not so much whether slavery was a good thing or a bad thing, as whether a State or States had the right to secede from the Union. The right of secession, as far as I have read, seems to have been universally recognised until Lincoln came along and said no. Even Thomas Jefferson explicitly recognised the right of a State to secede, although he prayed it would never happen. If Lincoln had not re-supplied Fort Sumter and thus finagled the South into firing the first shot (cunning bastard that he was), would there have been a war (as opposed to sporadic fighting and skirmishes)? I doubt it.
    You may disagree, and you may well be right. Certainly you are better informed than I with regard to the details of history, but who knows?
    History, of course, is written by the victors, and so Lincoln is portrayed as a great man. So is George Washington, but imagine what would be taught in history classes had he failed!

  31. Yes Hugo – this new bit of kit has a massive economic (and political?) effect.

    As for secession – as the Slave Power was expansionist the war would have come anyway (even if secession had been allowed).

    Also any secession today is TOTALLY DISCREDITED by a defence of Jefferson Davis and co.

    It is, therefore, of the highest importance to reject any link with the Stars and Bars.

  32. Pingback: URL

  33. Hugo Miller

    The point is that secession WAS allowed. That had always been an established principle, but one not recognised by Lincoln. Yes, the Southern States were expansionist, but so was the North. Pretty much the only way in which the Confederate Constitution differed from the original one was that it allowed slaves to be transported across State lines. As I have said, I believe the Republicans’ motives for wanting to keep the Negroes out of the new territories were questionable.
    If Lincoln had never been elected what would have happened? There would undoubtedly have been tensions between the two factions, but I feel these would have been resolved over time, by trade If nothing else. Moral sentiment in the western world was moving sharply against slavery, and had been for some time. I consider it only a matter of time before people would have refused to buy goods produced with slave labour, and the practice of slavery would have fizzled out gently on its own – just as it did everywhere else in the world.
    I believe Lincoln was a devious cunning politician, who wanted to keep alive the protectionist tendencies and the ‘American System’, while accruing more and more power to the central government, whereas the South felt their free trade and freedom to live their lives as they pleased was threatened by Lincoln and his centralising tendencies.
    It might be worth remembering that the word ‘slavery’ as a pretext for the war Lincoln had started, did not arise until 1863, after two years of fighting.
    One final word about Sherman – who marched into South Carolina with this outrageous mis-statement of the facts; “This is where treachery began, and this is where we shall end it”. By what definition can South Carolina’s secession be described as treachery? The United States was founded as a voluntary union of equals. Like a business partnership or a marriage. If such a relationship breaks down and one partner leaves, how is that treachery? What right has the federal government to hold an unhappy union together by force? These things are never questioned in American schools, which I think is a scandal.

  34. War was inevitable (even if a free trader had been President) – and secession was not relevant (as the Slave Power wished to EXPAND.

    However, how it was fought was not inevitable – and Lincoln (as Commander in Chief) must take the blame for the mess ups.

    It is rather like First World War – with Germany being gripped by the ideology it was gripped by (the doctrines that Mises describes the German political and academic elite fanatically holding) then conflict was inevitable – but how the war was fought (endless frontal attacks on prepared defences) was not inevitable.

    I am nether a “we could have avoided the war” type OR a “Haig the Educated Soldier” type.

    Haig was not an infantry commander – he knew bugger all about the basic rules of infantry warfare. But the blame must rest with the political leadership that backed him and men like him.