Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Consent of the Governed

In early January we're about six months from July 4th, but recall Jefferson's and the Continental Congress's words written 236 years ago in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, 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 to abolish it...

 The Declaration of Independence claims that to be just government must derive its powers from the consent of the governed. Is this the case in the United States?  In 1860 the southern states said that they did not consent to the US government; the US government proved that its power is not derived from any sort of consent.  It invaded the South, and the death toll amounted to 600,000 to 800,000.  There were  a million injuries and massive property destruction.  Far from being a government that derives its powers from the governed, the US government is as authoritarian as Hitler's or Stalin's. It is based on the power of a ruling cabal, nothing more.  The cabal is more benign than Hitler's or Stalin's was, but it is not qualitatively different.  There is no more moral grounding to the US government than there is to the Mafia.  There is little reason to feel secure here, and there is no reason to assume that out-and-out tyranny is not around the corner. 

Progressives are not troubled by the Civil War death toll, and I have never heard a suggestion that the victims' descendents are entitled to reparations.   However, I have heard repeated complaints about Pinochet's killing 3,000 leftists in Chile.  That is wrong, and it is a significant crime, but it is tiny compared to what the US government did.

I decided to assign part of Thomas J. DiLorenzo's book Lincoln Unmasked as well as part of his Hamilton's Curse in a new course I have developed called Government and Business.  Usually Government and Business courses are textbook-based, cliche-ridden Progressive propaganda.  CUNY's new free institutions program gave me released time last year, and I have developed the Business and Government course from a libertarian, free market, and anti-statist persepective.

Most historical accounts of the Civil War are told from the northern point of view; they emphasize the role of slavery, which is fair to a point.  It is also true that there had been a southern secessionist movement in the late 1820s that had zero to do with slavery.  It had to do with a tariff, the so-called Tariff of Abominations.  There was much tariff talk in 1859 and 1860, and to say that secession had nothing to do with tariffs smacks of the kind of propanda that makes Pinochet the world's greatest criminal and Stalin an omelet maker.  The low quality of historical research in general becomes embarrassing whenever economic issues are relevant, as DiLorenzo points out.  An historian who claims that tariffs made the US wealthy, for instance, is a fool, not a formidable intellect as Americans often believe.

In 1828 John Calhoun published a tract entitled "The South Carolina Exposition and Protest" in which he argued for South Carolina's nullification of the 1828 tariff.  Jefferson, who had died two years earlier, would have approved.  Tariffs helped northern manufacturers but directly harmed southern agricultural interests. This is what Wikipedia says about Lincoln's position on the tariff:
The Republican party included a strong pro-tariff plank in its 1860 platform. They also sent prominent tariff advocates such as Morrill and Sherman to campaign in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the tariff was popular, by touting the Morrill bill. Both Democratic candidates, John C. Breckenridge and Stephen Douglas, opposed all high tariffs and protectionism in general.[4]
Historian Reinhard H. Luthin documents the importance of the Morrill Tariff to the Republicans in the 1860 presidential election.[5] Abraham Lincoln's record as a protectionist and support for the Morrill Tariff bill, he notes, helped him to secure support in the important electoral college state of Pennsylvania, as well as neighboring New Jersey. Lincoln carried Pennsylvania handily in November, as part of his sweep of the North...On February 14, 1861, President-elect Lincoln told an audience in Pittsburgh that he would make a new tariff his priority in the next session if the bill did not pass by inauguration day on March 4.

Seven of eleven secessionist states had seceded by March 1861, and the Republicans took control of the Senate. The Morrill Tariff then passed.  It was signed by Democratic President James Buchanan. Buchanan was from Pennsylvania, and he voted for the tariff despite his Democratic affiliation.  He had bankrupted the US government, and a tariff was needed in part to cover the financial mess.  It cannot be said that the South seceded because of the Morrill Tariff because seven of the eleven states that seceded had seceded before the Morrill Tariff was passed, and the tariff likely would not have passed without the southerners' seceding.  At the same time, Lincoln's strong support for protectionism contributed to southerners' concerns about his election.

DiLorenzo is a clear writer, but he needs to tone it down;  in rhetoric less is typically more. Otherwise, his books are great.  His point that Lincoln was a racist who preferred to keep the territories all white to avoiding the Civil War is intriguing (see David Gordon's review on the von Mises site).  He follows through on an idea I have thought of for some time: there is an arc of statism that stretches from Hamilton, through Lincoln, through the Progressives, through the New Deal on to Bush, the bailout, and Obama.

One of the interesting points DiLorenzo makes in his two excellent books is that Hitler was an admirer of Lincoln. DiLorenzo quotes Hitler in Mein Kampf (p. 566, 579 Houghton Mifflin 1999 edition) as supporting the Lincoln position on secession:

 [T]he individual states of the American Union . . . could not have possessed any state sovereignty of their own. For it was not these states that formed the Union, on the contrary it was the Union which formed a great part of such so-called states...Certainly all the states in the world are moving toward a certain unification in their inner organization. And in this Germany will be no exception. Today it is an absurdity to speak of a ‘state sovereignty' of individual provinces.

Hitler would have been a supporter of today's European Union as well.  DiLorenzo makes the point that pro-Lincoln propagandists, who are quick to brand anyone who questions Lincoln's cult of centralization a racist, are in full agreement with Hitler.  If you have a bad argument like centralization, violent suppression of the governed, and totalitarianism, as do Lincoln's supporters, then it is necessary to divert the argument by calling those who disagree with you racists or advocates of slavery.  


Anonymous said...

Do you support slavery.

Mitchell Langbert said...

One of the more blatant lies taught in American schools is that the Civil War was fought over slavery. A reading of DiLorenzo's and Hummel's books will disabuse you of that myth.

First of all, four slave states fought on the side of the North--Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky. They did not abolish slavery even after the war ended. It took the Thirteenth Amendment passed by the radical, post-war Congress.

Second, the four most populous secessionist states, most importantly Virginia, did not secede until Lincoln attacked the initially seven seceding states after he was elected. The reason was specifically Lincoln's violent imposition of the federal government on the states which did not consent. The four second-wave secessions occurred in response to Lincoln's illegal use of violence to force the seceding states to remain in the union.

Third, Lincoln repeatedly said that he did not aim to repeal slavery. In fact, he said that he favored a Constitutional amendment that would have prohibited the abolition of slavery. He said this repeatedly.

Fourth, on November 7, 1861 The London Times wrote an editorial expressing its and the British people's dislike of slavery. Britain at that time was the leading abolitionist nation in the world, for they had abolished slavery a few decades earlier. Nevertheless, the Times editorialized, it was eminently clear that the Civil War was not being fought about slavery. As Lincoln repeatedly stated and made clear through direct action, the war's aim was to keep the union united. This was contrary to the aims of the American founders, and directly contradictory to the statement of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that just government is derived FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. As a result, The London Times opined, most of the British favored the South because the war was an effort to enforce a government on a people who did not consent; The Times held that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.

Fifth, another point omitted from your and most other Americans' educations was that many leading abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, had for years advocated NORTHERN SECESSION as a way TO END SLAVERY. In other words, the leading opponents of slavery had believed all along that secession would by itself end slavery. Rather than give this idea a chance, Lincoln chose to kill 500,000 to 800,000 people and conquer the South, forcing a tyranny on them.

Why would secession have ended slavery in the minds of abolitionists? Because the Fugitive Slave Law was a key impediment to slaves' escaping, and it would have been repealed with secession. The result would have been that slaves could escape and not be returned. In fact, this is what happened in Delaware. By the end of the war virtually all the slaves had left to enlist and could not be returned. Rather than let slavery die naturally, Lincoln, who did not care about slavery, fought a war to suppress the South and prevent them from seceding.

In sum, your belief that the Civil War was fought over slavery and that disagreement with the Civil War in some way suggests agreement with slavery is based on bad education, lies, misinformation, and propaganda that you probably learned in an American school. You did not get a good education, and I didn't either.

Anonymous said...

Point well taken Dr. Langbert. But the question was "Do you support slavery".

Mitchell Langbert said...

No. It is inconsistent with my libertarian views. One retains one's ownership in one's person; it is inviolable.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Except, of course, to a wife or girlfriend.

Mitchell Langbert said...

First, Lincoln DOES NOT say that the war was fought to end slavery in his second inaugural address. He says this in his second inaugural: "the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."

Second, perhaps you have not heard of the Corwin Amendment, which Lincoln vocally supported prior to the Civil War.

From Wikipedia:

"The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the (Republican, northern-dominated) 36th Congress, 2nd Session, on March 2, 1861, in the form of House (Joint) Resolution No. 80. It would forbid subsequent attempts to amend the Constitution to empower the Congress to 'abolish or interfere' with the 'domestic institutions" of the states, including 'persons held to labor or service' (a reference to slavery).

Ohio Republican Representative Thomas Corwin offered the amendment in an attempt to forestall the secession of Southern states. Corwin's resolution emerged as the House of Representatives's version of an earlier, identical proposal in the Senate offered by New York Republican Senator William H. Seward. However, the newly formed Confederate States of America was committed to independence and so it ignored the Corwin Amendment.

In other words, secession occurred in spite of the Corwin Amendment. The South seceded despite the proposal by the North to implement a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the abolition of slavery.

Third, Lincoln made many other statements PRIOR to the war, when it mattered and can be viewed as evidence of the reason for the war, that he opposed the aolition of slavery. He said that he opposed the abolition of slavery more than 20 times.

Fourth, Lincoln was a liar, and a crook, so it is not surprising that he might slightly change his story after the war, when the deed was already done. In addition, he and his supporters have always been racists. Lincoln wanted to export the freed slaves first to Liberia and then to central America. He opposed the extension of slavery not because he opposed slavery, but because he wanted the new states to be free of Blacks. His supporters were all racists.

Why would you lie and claim that his second inaugural address says that the war was fought to end slavery, when in fact it says the war was fought not to extend slavery, which had an entirely different, and much more racist, motive? It couldn't be because you're the dupe of a totalitarian government, could it?

Mitchell Langbert said...

PS--do you favor murder?