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New Birth of Freedom Betrayed

The University of Missouri Press has published a major new book called From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction by Forrest A. Nabors. This is the first book by Nabors, who left a business career in high technology to become a political scientist, and who is now associate professor of political science at the University of Alaska. L and L’s Lauren Weiner put questions to him about the book.

Lauren Weiner: This is a work of political history with a strain of philosophy running through it, so I thought I would begin by asking: What does Aristotle have to do with chattel slavery in America, the Civil War, and Reconstruction?

Forrest Nabors: First, on whether this is political history—I never intended to write a history simply, but to use history to address the dangers and safeguards in the American regime and in regimes that roughly copy our Founders’ model. That said, I didn’t begin expecting to write an homage to Aristotelian political science, either. But it was Aristotle who taught me that political regimes matter most of all—that we ought to pay attention to their forms, key parts, motions and the principles claimed by their defenders.

The initial question that guided my research was: Why did Reconstruction turn out the way it did? What caught my eye was a serious claim by the congressional Republicans of the time: that the South had developed in the direction of oligarchy long before the war. This claim was repeatedly advanced by those responsible for reconstructing the South. If true, I wondered why such an enormously significant fact had not been passed down in our scholarly accounts and popular recollections.

In reviewing the literature, I found that many scholars acknowledge this Republican claim about oligarchy, but not all accept it. Even the accepting ones, it seemed to me, fail to acknowledge its significance. Most studies have argued, or assumed, that the country divided along far less politically significant lines than the one I stress—a republican North and an oligarchical South. The bottom line is that if the Republicans were right, then much scholarship on Reconstruction, but also on the Civil War and American constitutional, political and social history in the 19th century, is flawed, incomplete, or flat wrong.

So I began looking at the post-bellum period but inevitably moved back to the antebellum period, tracing this regime claim that Republicans were making. And again my debt is to Aristotle. In analyzing actual regimes, Aristotle sharpens our powers of discernment like none other, ancient or modern, with due respect to the Baron de Montesquieu and a few of his caliber. To be sure, Aristotle wrote before the rise of modern nation-states and extended republics, which was sometimes frustrating when I went back and forth between my research and the Politics. But his insights are invaluable, even if we have to adapt them to modern circumstances.

What I concluded, with his guidance, was the American South really had revolutionized. And that therefore we cannot understand the causes of the war, its international importance, Reconstruction, 19th century America, or America generally, unless we start from that fact. I recognize that what I’m arguing runs against the grain of received opinion, and I accept the risks associated with making big claims. The book will either be a forgotten dud—deservedly, if the Republicans and I are wrong—or it will change our understanding of ourselves as a nation.

LW: The slave masters dominated their slaves, who were black. They also, as your book shows, dominated non-slave-owning whites. In what sense were the lives of poor whites in the South—the political majority—determined by the slave-owning minority?

FN: The slaveholding minority from the black belts where plantations were largest and slaves most numerous dominated state governments and exerted disproportionate influence on the national parties and the national government. Their conduct towards non-slaveholding whites ranged from benign neglect to principled contempt to demagoguery.

John C. Calhoun, for example, maintained that the basic unit of his ideal republic is a slaveholding family, ruled by the slaveholder, surrounded by family and slaves. He hardly acknowledged the existence of the non-slaveholder. Senator James Hammond of South Carolina and Senator James Mason of Virginia were contemptuous of the “mudsill” or “servile” class of non-slaveholders.

Then there is Governor Henry Wise of Virginia, who was in the more populist wing of the oligarchy, but was not an advocate of true popular sovereignty. He was a populist in the sense that a king who promises to put a chicken in every pot is a populist. He used race-baiting to lure poor whites into supporting slavery. His herrenvolk rhetoric ought not to be taken as proof that the South was a “white democracy”; his rhetoric was demagogic and strategic.

The condition of non-slaveholding whites was worst if they lived within or close to the black belts. Economically, their upward mobility was blocked. Because slaves supplied the labor needed by the slaveholders, non-slaveholding whites could not easily find wage-paying employment. Contrast that to the free states, where the marginal labor needs of farm owners had to be paid in wages. In the former, a labor surplus drove down wages; in the latter, labor scarcity drove up wages.

There are some studies that try to show that free labor was well-paid in the slave South, but they do not make sense to me. If jobs did pay well and were easy to find in the South, why do we not find capital accumulation among non-slaveholders? Why do we not find non-slaveholders investing in land and slaves? Instead we find land-ownership and slaveholding in the South concentrating into fewer proprietors even as aggregate slave counts were rising.

The slaveholders could easily outbid a wage-worker when it came to buying  land. In the North a man could work, save cash, and acquire his own farm, which he worked with his own hands and the laborers he hired.

With regard to education, we might put it this way: Could a talented, poor child from a non-slaveholding white family in the Southern black belts rise to a respectable profession? That would be very difficult. Southern governments controlled by the slaveholders resisted the adoption of the common school model that arose in and spread from New England. Instead, they funded woefully inadequate “pauper schools” on the one hand, and on the other, private academies and universities for the scions of the rich. Without adequate elementary education, the talented child from a poor white family could never attend a private academy or a university.

Freedom of speech and assembly, moreover, were restricted by the ruling oligarchs, and they used mobs and extralegal coercion to quell dissent. Some scholars point out that the legal restrictions mainly targeted antislavery speech and assembly but even so, these restrictions are not insignificant. They made sense from the oligarchy’s point of view—slavery was the basis of their rule—but from the white majority’s point of view, they prevented political organizing that aimed to establish true popular sovereignty. Some in the South who tried to organize chapters of the Republican Party were driven out.

So what could the poor whites do? Often they left. Emigration patterns show non-slaveholding whites fleeing the black belts. Sometimes they went to the upcountry where they were beyond the reach of the oligarchs. To maintain their independence, they often avoided commerce, used barter, and kept to themselves. Sometimes they left their states. A branch of my family were poor whites and did this. My paternal grandfather’s family were settlers in the Spartanburg-Greenville area of South Carolina, but they gradually moved west, hopping from one state or territory to the next along the same latitude: Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and finally, to northern New Mexico (after the Civil War), where my grandfather was born.

LW: You draw upon primary source materials—in particular, the direct statements of elected members of the Republican Party during the Reconstruction Congresses (38th, 39th, 40th). Did your researches uncover anything that surprised you?

FN: I found many surprises. Some impressions haunt me still. While Indiana Representative George Julian was visiting Union prisoners recovering at Andersonville, one very ill soldier begged in a whisper to be allowed to serve again if he should live. Here was an unknown young American whose love for his country’s cause sought no publicity and outshone his fear of his own imminent death. Julian reported being “unmanned by my tears.” When he stepped outside, he found Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade sobbing like a child.

I also came across the speech of Representative Robert Brown Elliott of South Carolina in favor of the failed Civil Rights Bill of 1874, which would have achieved much of what the 1964 Civil Rights Act achieved. This inspiring and tragic speech should be a standard text in every American school. Elliott was among the first class of black Americans to serve in Congress and was a gifted orator. You will not find a more eloquent statement in praise of our system of government anywhere, and he points the way to a bright future if the Congress were to legislate strong enforcement of civil rights.

Black Americans would become super-patriots, Elliott promised, and he closed with verses from Ruth 1:16-17: “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Reading these words, one got a glimpse of what a great future our nation blew. Elliott was a black Alexander Hamilton who bled red, white, and blue. Rejection of his cause left a long trail of understandable bitterness.

Another surprise was the character and conduct of Northern statesmen. Members of Congress from the free states were by and large born into ordinary or poor families. Their eloquence and education testify to the success of the American regime in establishing merit and not high birth or hereditary wealth as the basis for judging fitness for office. They exhibited many of the virtues of aristocracy though born commoners. They taught me to believe that, given a fair chance to rise, free people will produce a greater number of characters who can out-perform royalty, aristocracy, and the well-born every time. Many demonstrated remarkable courage and confidence in our system of government and principles when the choice was between action or submission.

By the 1850s, the oligarchy was in sight of its goal, seizing the reins of American government, and did not flinch from using intimidation or personal violence to bring men to obedience. The oligarchs’ frequent, violent outbursts in Congress really surprised me. But the Republicans stood up to them, consistently relying upon the power of persuasion to explain what was happening to the country, to refute the oligarchy, and to rally the people. They were determined to put their views and the oligarchy’s views to the test, and to submit to the outcome of a free debate.

One example of this is a forgotten Republican from New York, Representative Charles Van Wyck. Before the war he delivered a speech explaining his switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party. He described the despotism and violence instigated by his former party’s leaders in the South. While Van Wyck spoke, Representative Reuben Davis of Mississippi shouted him down with invectives and challenged him to a duel in indirect but clear language, proving Van Wyck’s point. Van Wyck kept his composure and continued speaking, which exposed him to the charge of cowardice. But he proved that although he disdained violating parliamentary decorum, he was no coward. When war broke out, he voluntarily vacated his seat in the Congress to join the Union Army. He saw combat, was wounded, received a battlefield promotion to Brigadier General before the war’s end and rejoined the House of Representatives during Reconstruction. Later, he became a Senator from Nebraska.

Finding these things in our past has made me suspicious of any limitation on free speech today, whether by government coercion or the heckler’s veto. When free debate flourishes, the witnesses to the debate, that is, the people, can see who is right.

Another surprising finding: In an era when the central moral principle in the Declaration of Independence was brandished frequently, hardly anyone in Congress mentioned John Locke when discussing the Declaration’s antecedents. Instead they tended to invoke the Christian idea of natural equality and to quote the Bible.

For the Republicans, the Declaration was a secular expression of a truth found in the Bible. Scholars seem to have devoted too little attention to the piety of the Republicans and over-associate Locke with the American Founding and later recollections of the Founding. It is more proper, I believe, to understand that Locke’s ideas share a family relation with the ideas of the American Protestants in New England, whose settlement predated Locke’s birth. Those American ideas found in the Declaration seem to be copied from Locke because they passed through the medium of a Locke-admiring Jefferson. The point is, those ideas first grew and spread in America without Locke’s instigation and were never understood to be cribbed from Locke as is often said nowadays.

 

LW: Do you believe that Reconstruction was doomed to fail?

FN: The answer depends on what yardstick we use to measure success or failure. Is success the establishment of republicanism in the South, which entailed 1960s-style de jure citizenship for black Americans, and the purification of republicanism in the whole of the nation? By that standard success was incredibly difficult to attain. You cannot build Rome in a day, and in the South, we were building a Rome from oligarchic material. Certainly, losing the far-seeing Lincoln made the task even more difficult.

One difficulty was that the Republicans were not fully confident that the Constitution gave them a warrant to occupy the South indefinitely—although I do believe that the basis was always there, in the Guarantee Clause, as Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts argued. I agree with his colleagues’ critique of his policy positions, but on constitutional interpretation, political theory, and history, Sumner was quite apt. British historian W.R. Brock blamed Reconstruction’s failure on the Constitution, which, he said, restrained Congress from holding the insurrectionary states as conquered territories. But Brock accepted the antebellum mal-interpretation of the Constitution created by oligarchs, for oligarchs. That interpretation certainly did limit the national government, which was the political purpose for which the interpretation was invented. Northern doubts about their constitutional authority undermined support for the coalition in favor of staying the course in the South and enforcing republican norms.

Another major problem was that the Southern states were once again a permanent part of the government once their representatives were readmitted into Congress. Hence, if those states had not been successfully reconstructed from oligarchy to republicanism, or if they backslid after rejoining the Union, the oligarchic rulers would once again be part of the government that was supposed to eliminate their minority’s power.

Some of the very same people who had borne the oligarchic cause were well-positioned to interfere with attempts to plant republicanism over the oligarchy. The erstwhile Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, was back representing a Georgia district in the House of Representatives in 1873. He led the successful opposition to passage of the Civil Rights Bill, against the eloquent Representative Elliott, whom I mentioned. Stephens’ famous 1861 “Cornerstone Speech,” in which he introduced the Confederate constitution that he had drafted, praised inequality and maintained that the American Founders were fundamentally wrong. Then there he was, a dozen years later, resuming his antebellum career in the U.S. Congress, locked in parliamentary battle with a black man, whose speech on the other side quoted the “Cornerstone Speech.” Elliott’s conduct exploded the theory of Stephens in person, on the House floor.

LW: In terms of contemporary views, one sometimes encounters the argument that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. When did that argument arise, and how consequential is it today?

FN: That states have rights that are recognized in the Constitution is indisputable. The Founders explain that the preservation of states’ rights is essential to the preservation of republican liberty. I call the Founders’ doctrine, states’ rights properly understood.

The argument that states have the rights of sovereign states was invented by John C. Calhoun and has no defensible basis in the Constitution or in constitutional history, in my view. This became the core of the Southern apologia for secession almost immediately after the war ended.

The Founders held that, as long as the states were republican in form (Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution), they had the right to exercise all of those powers not delegated to the federal  government primarily by Article I, Section 8, and not denied to the states in Article I, Section 9. This, of course, is the basis of federalism, or the division of governing power between state and national governments. The division was necessary to preserve self-government in the parts and in the whole of the Union, because the republic was extended, which was unprecedented.

The implied aim of this device was to insure that the national government only exercised governing powers with national objects in view, most clearly illustrated by such cases as war and international trade. If the local concerns of the people were subject to laws made by the national government, then rather than governing themselves, they would, in effect, be governed by an outside power, which is the definition of imperial government. This is not a problem in small republics but is in a large republic.

The Founders acknowledged that the people, through their states, had another important right: the natural right of revolution, which could be exercised, as the Declaration says, if the general government violated the natural rights of the people. This was the justification offered by the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions authored by Madison and Jefferson in response to the Adams administration’s Alien and Sedition Acts. Those resolutions eschewed revolution and took an intermediate step, nullification of those laws.

Calhoun claimed something far different in substance about the rights of states under the Constitution but made his claim appear as similar as he could to the Founders’ view, twisting the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Madison’s report of 1798 for his purposes. He argued that the states were sovereign. He reinterpreted the Union as a league, which could be abrogated at will and without cause. He contested some of the explicit powers given to the general government by the Constitution, namely the tariff (Article I, Section 8), and averred that the states, not the Supreme Court, were the highest court of appeal on the constitutionality of powers exercised by the federal government. He “found” a constitutional right of states to spread slavery in all the national territories. He interpreted the Guarantee Clause to mean that the national government was obligated to preserve whatever form of government pre-existed in a state, and to consider it republican merely by virtue of having pre-existed there.

I won’t be able, in this interview, to trace and retrace the manifold consequences of his theory, which is discussed in my book. Suffice it to say that all elements worked toward overthrowing republicanism and establishing oligarchy as the new model of government in the United States.

After the war and emancipation, Alexander Stephens, first, and Jefferson Davis, later, wrote accounts of the Civil War, both claiming that it was fought over contrasting views of the Constitution. Theirs was Calhoun’s—and this ought to have been unpopular among the majority of white Southerners, seeing as Calhoun’s constitutionalism served oligarchy and prevented majority rule. But because at that later time the Republicans were trying to affirm black American citizenship in the South, and black citizenship was unpopular among the white majority, the Calhounian theory, encompassing states’ rights, gained popularity. It colored Southerners’ take on the past conflict and their current politics. They could use it to blunt the reach of the general government into their states where they wanted to preserve racial segregation and discrimination. Remarkably, Calhoun’s constitutionalism has outlasted de jure segregation.

His influence has been extremely harmful. Before the war, slave-state governments’ encroachments and usurpations threatened self-government and republican liberty; today the threat is from the federal government. States are becoming mere administrative sub-units of the federal government, which has accumulated vast unenumerated powers. The executive has usurped legislative powers. Many who see this and deplore it invoke Calhoun and states’ rights, which harms the cause of restoring constitutional government in two ways.

First, Calhoun is the wrong guide. His constitutionalism improperly draws the line between state and federal government too far in favor of states.

Second, his constitutionalism suffers from the discrediting taint of its strong association with slavery, oligarchy, and segregation. Those who invoke the language and substance of Calhounian states’ rights repel decent Americans who might otherwise be receptive to the cause of restoring constitutional government.

Reader Discussion

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on March 01, 2018 at 10:47:40 am

As a Southerner, I have always found it ironic what Nabors alludes to in his last paragraph, that the states whose people shout "states rights" the loudest are the very states whose abuse of that principle in the cause of slavery and then of Jim Crow gave rise to the progressive erosion of that principle altogether. And I second what Nabors suggests, that the real tragedy for this country was not slavery but what came after Reconstruction, as Southern whites made it a point to violently prevent blacks from establishing communities and living according to the bourgeois ideals that they then sincerely wanted to adopt as their own.

But as to Article IV Section 4, it says that a state is guaranteed a republican "form" of government. The Southern states had that form. What they lacked, according to Nabors, was the substance. I am not too keen on the possibility of that clause being made the basis for federal government remediation of what it believes are defects in a state's institutional substance. The real problem, one I don't believe Aristotle or anyone else had to consider, was the inadequacy of the republican form per se to hold together two entirely separate racial communities. The republican ethos of the Northern states was never challenged by this circumstance until much later when blacks emigrated en masse from the South to the North.

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QET
on March 01, 2018 at 12:04:07 pm

"But Brock accepted the antebellum mal-interpretation of the Constitution created by oligarchs, for oligarchs. That interpretation certainly did limit the national government, which was the political purpose for which the interpretation was invented."

This seems to read a far too simplistic democratic populism into the original core of the American constitutional order of the early republic. That core was very much about protecting liberty, but it was never to be a simple representation of just one political form but rather a blending of "the one, the few, or the many" within a highly federal context. It was to be republican in the sense that the law's formal partitions, however arranged in the constitutions of the national and sate governments, would reign throughout.

I am afraid the historical reality is always a bit more complicated than we might wish. It is a legitimate question how far one goes with the balance between partly national and partly federal, so the worries about how the occupation fit into the legal order were quite real, notwithstanding the many other sentiments no doubt at work.

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Hans Eicholz
on March 01, 2018 at 14:28:24 pm

My only observation is that Nabors is on the right track but fails to fully consider that the Carolinas and Georgia were created as propitiatory colonies with plantation economies that naturally adopted the English manor system of local government. This naturally extended to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana after 1790.

The situation was very different in New England, which had a commercial charter and where the first settlers had invented a constitutional democratic-republican form of government by 1640 that was focused much more on political and social egalitarianism coupled with an economy based upon trade and manufacturing.

The New England model strongly influenced Virginia, upstate New York, Pennsylvania and the old Northwest. The rest of the colonies were influenced to a greater or lesser extent.

Focusing on "republicanism" and a republican form of government fails to consider that until 1870, most of the money flowing into the American colonies and later into the US was derived from the plantation economies that depended upon slave labor.

In short, killing slavery and imposing republicanism was equivalent to killing the golden goose. That was something Hamilton and the Federalist would never do.

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EK
on March 01, 2018 at 14:54:48 pm

The Oligarchic/Republican dichotomy is insightful as a new formulation in considering a much written about sectionalism. I conclude with the thought: postbellum so much time loss and so much promise wasted. "When free debate flourishes, the witnesses to the debate, that is, the people, can see who is right."

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Anthony
on March 01, 2018 at 16:07:14 pm

QET, it might interest you to know that John Adams lamented the lack of further specificity in the guarantee clause so that it could be used to remediate wayward states. My view is that the reason it did not occur to them to add that specificity was that they believed states would self-reform towards republicanism without national government intervention, because they were already doing so, led by Virginia. Cf. Jefferson's autobiography when he refers to the republican legislature in Virginia of '76. But after the southern statesmen revolutionized, and were stopped, the Congress added that specificity - the 14th Amendment.

With regard to your second point, my view is that according to republican theory, there is nothing in biology, i.e., race, inherently forbidding to forming a common citizenship. The problem was not biological difference. The oligarchical inheritance was the problem.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 01, 2018 at 16:20:24 pm

Dear Mr. Eicholz,

You mistake me, if you think that I am criticizing the southern statesmen from the point of view of democratic populism. I do agree that the institutional design of constitutional government was wisely mixed. However, the mixture had to rest on popular sovereignty, which defined the boundaries of republicanism according to the founders. Antebellum southern state governments failed to meet that test and the southern statesmen were proud of their rebellion against popular sovereignty. They sometimes claimed that their governments were republican in form, and for good reason: the Constitution forbids any other form. But their use of the word "republican" stretched the founders' definition beyond the breaking point. Sometimes they conceded that they were not "republicans" in the founders' sense. For example, see Leonidas Spratt's address in 1861. It's online here: http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/secession/secession.html. My book gives you other evidence.

Yes, historical reality is complicated. That is why scholars are needed to draw the right general conclusions. I hope that I have done so.

Forrest Nabors

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Forrest Nabors
on March 01, 2018 at 16:35:42 pm

Dear EK,

Actually I do consider the unique colonial origins of South Carolina and Georgia in a previous writing, "How the Antislavery Constitution Won the Civil War," in NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, 10(1), and I expand that analysis in my next book. I'm not sure how this undermines my argument. Rather, I argue that we can only understand why SC & GA were outliers in the new American republic due to those origins. Remarkably, they produced a political culture and leader who reshaped the rest of the South according to their model, not Virginia's - which is what gave us the Civil War.

New England republicanism was admired by most of the founding statesmen south of New England, was modified by the Virginians, then became American republicanism, I argue. The other states copied New England. Patrick Henry, for example, told Adams that he hoped all would look at the new constitution of VA (ratified in '76) and would see a kindred relation to Massachusetts. The SC & GA pair never imbibed New England republicanism and never seriously tried to copy it. They began oligarchic, and spread oligarchy.

With regard to your point about killing slavery, you have to explain, then, why Hamilton joined Jay's antislavery society, his many antislavery comments. Continuing your metaphor about slavery, I don't think that they believed the goose was so golden for the general population, though it was highly productive for the minority of slaveholders . Freedom produced more gold.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Forrest Nabors

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Forrest Nabors
on March 01, 2018 at 16:37:39 pm

Thank you, Anthony. And like the Republicans, I'm willing to put myself to the same test!

Regards,
Forrest

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Forrest Nabors
on March 01, 2018 at 19:37:20 pm

It would appear that Professor Nabors has written an exciting, novel interpretation of ante and post-bellum southern political culture. I plan to order his book tonight ( not on Amazon but rather on the America and consumer-friendly ABE Books:)

I admire Nabors' willingness to defend his thesis by addressing commenters on this web site, something I have not seen before here or elsewhere.

While I read FDR's Democrat Party's favorite Reconstruction historian Claude Bowers while in college decades ago and have since become familiar with the contemporary thinking of Reconstruction historians David Blight and Eric Foner, I am inexpert on the matters of his book. So I will not comment in support of or opposition to his thesis. But I am extremely intrigued by it since I was born and raised in West Virginia (a freedom-loving heritage I cherish,) a state which was the political consequence of geographic and cultural separation from, economic independence of and civic rebellion against secession and the war of southern resistance by the destructive, racist oligarchy of which he writes.
I would also ask Professor Nabors: 1) how his thesis differs, if at all, from the "rich man's war, poor man's fight" thesis of the Civil War, 2) what he thinks would be the strongest criticism of his oligarchy thesis by David Blight and Eric Foner, and 3) was the Democrat Party at the center of the oligarchy?

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timothy
on March 02, 2018 at 00:18:15 am

Thank you, Timothy.

Before I get to your questions, allow me to say that I cannot accept credit for this interpretation. It comes right out of the Republicans in Congress whom I studied and from Republicans in general in the period. Their interpretation was supplanted by the one you read in college, Claude Bowers et al. I explain why the interpretation changed in the last chapter of the book. Also, several of the prominent Republicans in Congress I studied were from West Virginia, and one I especially admire was Waitman Willey, a brave and frank statesman. Western Virginia was heavily populated by nonslaveholders and was ruled by the oligarchy. Because of the geographic proximity and greater strength, they were able to secede from Virginia when Virginina seceded from the Union; whereas poorer concentrations of nonslaveholders in the southern states were not able to do so - upstate Alabama, northwest South Carolina, etc.

On to your questions. 1) That phrase, rich man's war, poor man's fight, is my thesis in a phrase, uttered in poor white brogue. But prior scholarship does not quite trace out the full implications of this. It would be an understatement to say that rich interests influenced the leadership. The rich slaveholders ruled, and the nonslaveholders were ruled. It was a full-blown oligarchic political regime and their institutions were bent to accommodate oligarchy, shaped by oligarchic principle.

2) I hope that Professor Blight and Foner accept my thesis. I do address their work in the Intro and final chapter. In short, they focus on slavery and race, as if the political structure of the antebellum South was white over black. My thesis is that it was some whites over both white and black.. In the beginning of Foner's Reconstruction, he does acknowledge southern aristocracy, but then, as I write, it drops out of his analysis. He, like many historians, view the oligarchy as a social unit and I think not quite the full-blown political regime that I see. The main alternatives in our historical views have been either the neo-Confederate Bowers school or the race-centric Marxian view, which Foner is the best representative. My view is neo-Republican.

3) Yes. The Democratic Party became the vehicle and was controlled by them. Northern Democrats were in thrall to them. The Nullification Crisis was also an intra-Democratic battle - Jackson representing common white Southerners and Calhoun representing the emerging oligarchy. By 1844 Calhoun had firm control of the party.

Thank you for mentioning ABE books. I will check them out.

Regards,
Forrest

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 09:35:38 am

I recall reading in a book by William Freehling, an example of a newspaper editor in South Carolina in 1840 who was driven out of town for daring to opine that the issue of slavery should be publicly discussed. The impression given was of South Carolina as an oligarchic police state. It would seem that South Carolina's form of government in the decades before the Civil War can hardly be called republican, which puts an interesting twist on the Constitution's guarantee of a republican form of government in relation to South Carolina's leading role in promoting secession.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2018 at 09:50:45 am

Thanks Prof. Nabors, but I did not mean simple skin color. I should have said two distinct racial cultures. It is an unanswerable question whether blacks would have willed a completely different culture from whites had they not been violently prevented by Southern whites from attempting to build communities on the Anglo-American bourgeois model following Reconstruction. But they were so violently prevented, and the result is a politics that strains the republican form to the breaking point. Of course republican theory does not rule out such a common citizenship but only because the theory was developed without regard to such a society. Republican institutions require a republican ethos--that is what must be held in common--and it is that ethos that is missing since one population was actively prevented from associating with the other in such a commonality when such association was critically required. That is my contention anyway. Perhaps if I devoted as much time and thought to it as you have to your research, I would come to a different conclusion.

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QET
on March 02, 2018 at 10:02:26 am

Mr, Nabors:

Two quick comments:

1) Like Timothy, let me express my appreciation for your willingness to engage with Law & Liberty's commenters. Bravo!

2) It may not be inaccurate to argue that the "white over black" rhetoric was the *gratuity* offered to the yeoman class in order to gain their acceptance of a regime which denied to that class full political rights, financing for both land, tools and equipment, and would see that class forced to move to marginal lands and endure a life of abject poverty.
Nope, I suspect that your oligarchy thesis will carry the day.

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gabe
on March 02, 2018 at 11:43:12 am

Forrest Nabors has touched on the Declaration of Independence, so I will intersperse comments below:

Nabors writes: "In an era when the central moral principle in the Declaration of Independence was brandished frequently, hardly anyone in Congress mentioned John Locke when discussing the Declaration’s antecedents. Instead they tended to invoke the Christian idea of natural equality and to quote the Bible."

My response: I recall reading that, in the pamphlet output of the Revolutionary era, by far the most widely-cited source was the Bible. John Adams, arguably the leading ideologue behind the Declaration of Independence, conflated Christian moral teachings with Ciceronian natural law, and that view seems to have been standard fare at revolutionary-era colonial colleges, which primarily educated future ministers and lawyers.

Nabors writes: "For the Republicans, the Declaration was a secular expression of a truth found in the Bible."

My response: This also goes for many Revolutionary leaders, as discussed quite some time back by Alan Heimert in "Religion and the American Mind: From the Great Awakening to the Revolution."

Nabors writes: Scholars seem to have devoted too little attention to the piety of the Republicans and over-associate Locke with the American Founding and later recollections of the Founding.

My response: Amen!

Nabors writes: "It is more proper, I believe, to understand that Locke’s ideas share a family relation with the ideas of the American Protestants in New England, whose settlement predated Locke’s birth. Those American ideas found in the Declaration seem to be copied from Locke because they passed through the medium of a Locke-admiring Jefferson. The point is, those ideas first grew and spread in America without Locke’s instigation and were never understood to be cribbed from Locke as is often said nowadays."

And here we may have to part ways, or at least walk on opposite sides of the street. To briefly summarize my view:

First of all, as John Phillip Reid has pointed out, the Founders read Locke as a commentator on established constitutional principles (such as life, liberty and property -- Clause 39 of Magna Carta). Beyond that, Jefferson was completely unoriginal, as he said so himself. Young Jefferson wrote a draft Declaration that reflected the shared views of his elders John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The Declaration of Independence expresses a fundamentally anti-Lockean doctrine, rooted in Cicero (laws of God and nature; natural equality; safety and happiness), and found in Rev. Hutcheson (just powers; safety and happiness; unalienable rights--which corresponded to Jesus Christ's two great commandments of piety and benevolence) Burlamaqui (safety and happiness; unalienable rights; governments exist to secure natural rights, understood in terms of the pursuit of virtue as the prerequisite for happiness), and Vattel (Burlamaqui's student, and author of the era's foremost treatise on international law, which was the acknowledged handbook for the Founders as they confederated and declared independence).

By way of contrast, Locke never associated happiness with the purpose of government, Locke never associated happiness with virtue (as the Continental Congress did in its May 1776 independence resolution), and Locke's egoistic moral psychology was rejected even by Jefferson, who clung to the Hutchesonian anti-Lockean "moral sense" throughout his life.

I go into more detail in "The May Resolution and the Declaration of Independence" at http://startingpointsjournal.com/may-resolution-declaration-of-independence/

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2018 at 11:51:09 am

Correction: instead of saying "Locke never associated happiness with virtue...," I should have said "Locke never defined happiness in terms of virtue, as Congress did in May 1776..."

Locke, in his Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, did cynically state that self-interest inclines us to promote virtue in others so as to promote our own happiness (understood in terms of personal pleasure, where even a mother's love for her children is reduced to calculated self-interest).

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2018 at 14:14:25 pm

Understood. Let me begin with an observation, absent racial considerations: Forming an equal republican citizenry from a larger group of people who had lived under a different system in which people are ranked, is sometimes difficult. It stands to reason that they would experience difficulty, if one rank had been nominally free but ruled; another rank ruled; another rank with some privileges but neither ruled nor were ruled; and yet another rank that was absolutely ruled despotically with no personal freedom whatsoever (that is, slaves).

The problem is, how do you convert this mass of ranks into an equal citizenry? As St. George Tucker pointed out, is that the prior system unfits some for equality (the highest rank, accustomed to ruling) and unfits others for freedom (the lowest rank, whose humanity has been crushed) and Others are in-between. That was the problem experienced by the South after 1865 on a very large scale.

The prior system is what created the problem, not color. Color was incidental to the formation of that problem, but severely aggravated the problem because color was used by the prior system to mark the lowest rank. It aggravated the problem because when an outside power attempted to break up the prior order, and blend citizens into an equal citizenry, one mark of rank persisted and resisted that blending.

This is what created the difference between groups within the citizenry. The last chapter of my book goes over this ground.

I hope that this is helpful in stating my position more clearly.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 14:22:13 pm

Exactly, Mr. Schmeeckle. There is a great deal of evidence like this that supports your point (and mine). The Republicans properly argued that the Bill of Rights ceased to exist in the antebellum South. Their governments were not republican in form. Lincoln says this in his message to Congress on July 4, 1861. See http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/message-to-congress-in-special-session/

I have not found any modern scholarship recognizing that this was the reason why the Republican Party chose "Republican" for their name. But that is the reason. They formed their party to defend American republicanism against the steady march of oligarchy in the United States. In my view, they saved the American Revolution for all of us and they fought against a system that injected many problems into our country that last to this day.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 14:30:52 pm

Thanks, Gabe. I just want Americans to know what happened to their country and hope that a corrected view of our past will help us overcome inherited divisions and unite as a people today. We were all in this fight together in the past.

I think your point is correct. Oligarchs like Henry Wise, whom I mentioned in my interview above, flogged white supremacy in order to keep ruled whites loyal. They used a divide-and-conquer strategy to preserve their minority's power. If you don't mind me making a contemporary political observation - these divisions are encouraged even today to keep Americans divided - the better to prevent us from joining together and asserting our liberty.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 15:48:13 pm

Did I miss something or did Mr. Nabors simply forget to mention one of the most vexing questions in African-American history is whether free African Americans themselves owned slaves. The short answer to this question, as you might suspect, is yes, of course; some free black people in this country bought and sold other black people, and did so at least since 1654, continuing to do so right through the Civil War. For me, the really fascinating questions about black slave-owning are how many black "masters" were involved, how many slaves did they own and why did they own slaves?

The great African-American historian, John Hope Franklin, states this clearly: "The majority of Negro owners of slaves had some personal interest in their property." But, he admits, "There were instances, however, in which free Negroes had a real economic interest in the institution of slavery and held slaves in order to improve their economic status."

In a fascinating essay reviewing this controversy, R. Halliburton shows that free black people have owned slaves "in each of the thirteen original states and later in every state that countenanced slavery," at least since Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary went to court in Virginia in 1654 to obtain the services of their indentured servant, a black man, John Castor, for life.

And for a time, free black people could even "own" the services of white indentured servants in Virginia as well. Free blacks owned slaves in Boston by 1724 and in Connecticut by 1783; by 1790, 48 black people in Maryland owned 143 slaves. One particularly notorious black Maryland farmer named Nat Butler "regularly purchased and sold Negroes for the Southern trade," Halliburton wrote.

Of course both Noah Andre Trudeau and James G. Hollandsworth Jr. explain, once the war broke out, some of these same black men formed 14 companies of a militia composed of 440 men and were organized by the governor in May 1861 into "the Native Guards, Louisiana," swearing to fight to defend the Confederacy. Although given no combat role, the Guards — reaching a peak of 1,000 volunteers — became the first Civil War unit to appoint black officers.

Looking at what was carefully studied regarding this was Carter G. Woodson who wrote that statistics, calculated that 54 (or about 1 percent) of these black slave owners in 1830 owned between 20 and 84 slaves; 172 (about 4 percent) owned between 10 to 19 slaves; and 3,550 (about 94 percent) each owned between 1 and 9 slaves. Crucially, 42 percent owned just one slave.

But "slavery" was not the reason that the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) was fought but that's a different subject for a different time.

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William
on March 02, 2018 at 17:10:28 pm

Dear John,

Thank you for expounding your view on the origins of the language in the Declaration here, and for pointing me to your article in Starting Points.

Your effort seems eminently worthwhile to me, directed at pinning down the source of the precise principles.

I concede that the implications of the finer differences in the language of the Declaration, Locke, Cicero etc. matter to political theory. However, those differences matter less to the establishment and development of government than the broader differences between the general principles of natural right and other general principles, for example, the general principles that sustain aristocracy.

Considered from that perspective, I maintain what I wrote that you quote above. My primary scholarly support for this position is Perry Miller, who shows that New Englanders were asserting natural right very early in colonial history, around the time when Locke was born. Further, my working hypothesis is that Locke's ideas are cousin to the New England ideas in the sense that they are both nourished by Protestant Christianity plus classical sources. Adams reviewed the libraries brought to America by the early fathers of New England, and says that they contained the best books of classical and modern learning. Locke came from the same Protestant milieu.

Here is where I will probably precipitate disagreement from my Straussian friends: Although I accept the teaching of Strauss on ancients and moderns, with respect to Locke, I believe he was incorrect. In my view, Locke was not a hedonist. By my reading he was the modern recrudescence of Aquinas. Compare, for example, the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Locke and in Aquinas (De regno ad regem Cypri). Also, as Richard Tuck show, English Dominicans (the order of Aquinas) became the leading Protestants in England. So there we see a suggestive etiology: Classical teaching from Aristotle, through Aquinas to English Protestantism, which gave us both Locke and the New England fathers. I am not trying to re-start an old battle on whether the American founding is classical or modern. That is not my purpose, nor do I believe that it is important. Locke and the New England fathers seem to me to have sharpened inherited wisdom about fundamental things. I will only add Strauss against Strauss: He says that the American founding is the only anti-Machiavellian founding in modernity. I agree with him, but my reason for agreeing with him is that Locke maintained the fused of wisdom of Athens and Jerusalem into the modern age.

The general principles found in America before Locke, spread from New England. We know that the leading Virginian statesmen admired New England. In addition to the May '76 resolutions that you mention in your article, we can also see these general principles in Jefferson's Summary View of the Rights of British America. We can see them in many state constitutions framed in the same period (with the requested assistance of Adams).

Remember, in his famous letter on the Declaration,Jefferson says that he intended to "harmonize" inherited wisdom, including Cicero but more, and the list included ancients & moderns. When Adams recollected seeing Jefferson's first draft of the Dec, he remembered first seeing his native New England principles. These accounts prove to me that the general principles that underwrote the American Revolution - and that were sustained by the Republicans of the Civil War-Reconstruction Era - were fairly drawn from the same source that Locke was drawn.

Best Regards,
Forrest

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 17:21:21 pm

Some important words from the horse's mouth:
"...it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.

All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c"
http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-henry-lee/

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CJ Wolfe
on March 02, 2018 at 17:39:30 pm

Dear William,

If I understand you correctly, you are arguing that because black Americans were slaveholders, too, that the war was not over slavery.

I have not read Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Hollandsworth but I acknowledge black slaveholding. It existed in the Chesapeake region primarily in the colonial period. Black slaveholding was concentrated mostly in Louisiana at the time of the Civil War. If I recall correctly, they were mostly descendants of unions between slave women and French planters in Haiti, and many of the immigrants were brought up as freemen, some educated in France.

To be sure, the existence of black masters is peculiar. Nevertheless, I'm not sure how this evidence proves that slavery was not the most salient issue that divided the North and South. By the way my argument accepts the salience of slavery, but attempts to go deeper, behind the salience of slavery in order to show that this potent institution upheld a system of government aberrant to American republicanism. The war was between republicanism and oligarchy.

It is odd to me that you can argue the old neo-confederate terminology, the War of Northern Aggression, when in fact, southern statesmen who took their states out of the Union themselves cite slavery repeatedly as the reason for secession, and their refusal to accept as president someone who held antislavery convictions. Or in the face of the facts, that War Sec. Floyd was moving arms to the South while he was still in the US Gov't, or that the Confederacy fired the first shots at Sumter, etc.

Let us say that the North was the aggressor, and that the South did have the right to secede under our Constitution (which I dispute). So what? If that is true, then all it proves is that our Constitution was flawed, because it permitted tyrants to rule their states and to depart the Union if their tyranny disliked the anti-tyrannical convictions of officers in the federal government. You might as well praise the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Un, etc. for defending "liberty" against American aggression. Are tyrants who resist interdiction freedom fighters? I think not.

That is how I see your position. And by the way, southerners suffered under that tyranny more than anyone else, and for that reason, I emphatically say in my book, and repeat here, that my position is not anti-Southern but quite the opposite. It is the same position as my position with respect to Iran today is not anti-Iranian just because I wish to see the ruling Iranian mullahs thrown down. The Iranian people now and the southern people in 1861, and all people of the world deserve to enjoy their natural rights too. If America is sometimes aggressive in liberating people, then or now, I say, good for us. I just hope that our efforts to free people are prudently decided & planned so that we do not engage in doomed enterprises.

Lincoln never intended to wage a liberating war against the South. The oligarchs brought that down upon themselves. And southerners fought for the Union by the hundreds of thousands.

Sorry if this sounds harsh.

Respectfully,
Forrest Nabors

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 17:41:35 pm

Indeed. Thanks, CJ.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 02, 2018 at 18:30:36 pm

William wrote that "'slavery' was not the reason that the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) was fought."

I have come across two arguments on this subject that I'll share here.

On the one hand, in 1850 the radical southern "fire-eaters," led by John Quitman, Governor of Mississippi, loudly threatened secession if southern California wasn't set up a slave territory. The extension of slavery was the issue. And in 1860 the same issue came up, with southern leaders warning that Lincoln would use federal patronage to extend the Republican Party into lightly-enslaved Kentucky, and thus move Kentucky toward emancipation. The issue of the extent of territory that was safe for slavery was front and center in the minds of the southern leaders, at both points. And of course between these two points, "bleeding Kansas" was a protracted struggle between pro- and anti-slavery activists over the extent of territory that was safe for slavery.

On the other hand, when I was working on my master's thesis on the Declaration of Independence, I came across a document (and failed to record the source) indicating that South Carolina entered the Union with a gentlemen's agreement from the rest of Congress that South Carolina had the right to withdraw whenever they wanted. Extending this supposition to 1861, Virginia arguably seceded in part as a point of honor, as Virginia's leaders honored the old agreement with their South Carolina counterparts.

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John Schmeeckle
on March 02, 2018 at 20:01:03 pm

Well and humanely stated: "the prior system is what created the problem, not color." That single perception (blind spot) is one that Republican contenders avert at their own informed disadvantage vis-a-vis a most troublesome American social arrangement and legacy. Thanks.

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Anthony
on March 02, 2018 at 20:06:49 pm

Professor Nabors,
Thank you for continuing the dialogue; I recognize that what I am putting forward is very much "outside the box" of accepted scholarship. A longer article is undergoing peer review.

I will share one point of apparent disagreement. You write, "Locke’s ideas are cousin to the New England ideas in the sense that they are both nourished by Protestant Christianity plus classical sources."

I think it's fair to say that Locke continued Hobbes's deliberate undermining of classical (Ciceronian) natural law, by taking "virtue" out of his definition of happiness, by positing humanity's inherent self-centeredness, and by rejecting synderesis/conscience/moral sense.

A couple of other thoughts: I know that some scholars have been inclined to see a dichotomy between "ancients" and "moderns," but I perceive relevant divisions among the ancients and among the moderns.

For example, Aristotle and Locke were employable as apologists for slavery, whereas Cicero, Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel weren't. Aristotle and Locke had no concept of universal benevolence (active concern for the well-being of our fellow humans extending beyond family and clan) as a prerequisite for happiness, while Cicero, Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel did. Furthermore, Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel derive natural right in ways fundamentally different from Locke, not employing the so-called "state of nature" (although the concept of a state of nature does appear elsewhere in all of them).

In reference to your observation about Adams' reaction to Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration as reflecting New England thought, I think you're referring here to Adams' statement that there wasn't anything in the Declaration that wasn't already present in James Otis's 1763 "The Rights of the American Colonies Asserted and Proved." Otis cited Locke and Vattel in the same breath, and so did Virginia's Richard Bland (in a different context) in his 1766 "Inquiry into the Rights of the American Colonists."

A comparison and contrasting of Locke and Vattel on such points as the capacity of legislatures to abuse the power entrusted to them, the collective right to revolution, the meaning of happiness, and the proper role of government in promoting virtue in the people is, in my opinion, a useful study.

Best regards,
John Schmeeckle

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John Schmeeckle
on March 03, 2018 at 03:30:44 am

John,

I do see breaks between ancients and moderns. I see breaks between most philosophers. And I agree that in the 2nd Treatise, Locke doesn't talk much about happiness or virtue. His system does not depend on either, which I concede is rather "un-ancient" of him. I don't think these concessions undermine my point, however, with regard to natural right and Locke's similarity to the New Englanders. I think your standard of similarity requires too much exactitude.

Yes, we disagree about Locke and Aristotle on slavery. In the 2nd Treatise, Locke says, if my memory is correct, that slavery is only justified by madness and lunacy. My interpretation of Aristotle is the same. He reviews "what is said" about slavery, and then reaches, in my view, the same position as Locke: that natural slavery is limited to those whose minds cannot direct their bodies, and their bodies need to be directed (madmen, lunatics, in Locke's language).

My memory agrees with yours about the reaction of John Adams, although i think the pamphlet published in Boston was also authored by Samuel Adams, who worked with Otis, and I will admit that when I read the pamphlet for the first time, it struck me as more directly copied from Locke than the Dec.

Regards,
Forrest

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Forrest Nabors
on March 03, 2018 at 10:05:43 am

That common source was the Long Parliament and the political and religious schism between the Presbyterians and the Independents marked by Pride's Purge in 1648. David Underdown's "Prides Purge in Puritan Revolution" (1971) is excellent on this point.

In short, the Presbyterians represented the City of London, the Guilds and the gentlemen of trade and the professions and went on to become the Whigs/Federalists in Anglo-American politics. The Independents came to represent the 40 shilling freeholders, the city apprentices and the rank and file of the New Model Army and mostly went to ground after the Restoration or emigrated to America or Canada. Ultimately, they became Jefferson's Democratic-republicans.

Initially, the Presbyterians and Independents differed only on the point of church governance; the Presbyterians wanted a presbytery and an established church and the Independents wanted autonomous, self-governing congregations and demanded broad religious tolerance if there had to be an established church. In the 1640s, this spilled over into the politics of the Long Parliament. In the 1950s, Christopher Hill described this as the most momentous religious schism in modern history.

But keep in mind that the Bay Colony was chartered in 1628, the year of the Petition of Right, the last constitutional document common to both the colonists and England. For 20 years between 1630-50, the settlers of Bay Colony were front running the events back in England. Their church-towns were Leveller republics for the free holders while colonial government was the business of the gentlemen. In the Bay, the towns were autonomous in town matters, they had effective control of the militia and actual control of the constables and justices of the peace. The governor and his assistants had no police force and the company grade officers they appointed in the militia were selected from nominees made by the towns. Very little changed after 1690 as the royal appointees exercised no more control over the day to day activities in the towns than did the old Puritan divines.

Tell me more about Richard Tuck and Dominicans becoming Puritans. I haven't hear of that one. My understanding is that the Tudor "new men" who profited from the dissolution of the monasteries were the ones who became the Puritans.

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EK
on March 03, 2018 at 10:06:16 am

Forrest,
I think it is an interesting supposition that Samuel Adams co-authored Otis's 1763 pamphlet. Adams appears to have been more "Lockean" than many other leading patriots, including his cousin John. This could be because Adams wasn't a trained lawyer. Perhaps Lockean thought served as a "bridge" between those with legal educations and the rest of the educated public.

But on the other hand, future lawyers and ministers studied Cicero before and during college, and the thought of Puritan Massachusetts as well as Elizabethan England was grounded in the classics. See "Education in Massachusetts Bay" at https://www.founderspatriots.org/articles/mass_education.php

One thing to keep in mind is that Locke's Second Treatise and Locke's Essay Concerning the Human Understanding often get lumped together in the minds of modern scholars, which can result in anachronistic projection, especially when dealing with the Declaration of Independence. The critical issue, in my mind, is "happiness," as defined by Congress in May 1776; and then Congress famously associated happiness with natural right (which Locke NEVER did) in July . The Second Treatise can be read as consistent with English and colonial constitutional thought (with no mention of "happiness"). However, the Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, where Locke deals with "happiness," is fundamentally at odds with Cicero and with Cicero's modern followers Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel.

The fundamental importance of "happiness" for American constitutional and political thought is underscored by Chief Justice Marshall, who observed in Marbury v. Madison: "That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own HAPPINESS is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected." And this, together with the Declaration of Independence's association of happiness with natural ("unalienable") rights, is why the May 1776 anti-Lockean congressional definition of happiness is so important, at least to my mind.

This question of the meaning of happiness brings up the unbridgeable chasm between Cicero's and Locke's moral psychology, which I discuss in "Cicero, Natural Law, and the Declaration of Independence" at https://www.academia.edu/6508461/Cicero_Natural_Law_and_the_Declaration_of_Independence

A final thought, relating to your comment on "the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Locke and in Aquinas": We could also talk about the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Cicero and his medieval English follower John of Salisbury (both of whom advocated tyrannicide), and in Magna Carta and Bracton (who wrote that the barons and the people should "bridle" an unruly king), and in the 1649 verdict and death sentence against King Charles I (which brings us back to tyrannicide). As I see things, Locke, with his language of "a long train of abuses" leading inexorably toward despotism, simply put a fine point on age-old English constitutional thought.

Best,
John

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John Schmeeckle
on March 03, 2018 at 13:58:51 pm

Allow me to correct my poor memory. I just rechecked Tuck and reminded myself that in Ch. 2 of Natural Rights Theories, he says that many Dominicans became protestants during the Renaissance. He does not delve into English Dominicans becoming protestants. But others do. I encourage you to check out the career of Martin Bucer, a German Dominican who became a protege of Luther, went to England, was appointed Regius chair at Cambridge and authored De Regno Christi, which is called "a forerunner of Puritan idealism" (Dickens, History of the English Reformation, 2nd ed., p. 259). Dickens goes on to address the problem of ascertaining the Catholic sources of protestant clerics in England and found some limited evidence that the leading source was Dominican (p. 332).

With regard to the Anglo-American schism between Presbyterians/Federalists and Independents/Democratic Republicans, it seems to me that if the alignment is defensible, it is a difference within the family of republicanism. This brings me back to my original point, that the political principles of New England, Locke and the Declaration all share the same family relation, and the idea common to them all opposes the idea of monarchy, found in the principles of the third faction in the English Civil War, the royalists, who were outside the family of republicanism and whom you left out of your account.

Both the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans believed in popular sovereignty based on natural right. They disagreed on the proper superstructure of American government, the form of the institutions intended to secure popular rule and the wise administration of government. On the one side Adams contended for straight republicanism; on the other, Jefferson & Madison contended for democratizing our institutions further. You know English history, it seems, better than I do, but my sense is that English republicanism, hounded by royalism, didn't advance far enough as the Americans to earn the luxury of worrying about these finer distinctions in the form of their republic.

I must object to your assimilation of the New England towns to Leveller and Digger communitarianism. The last two groups were nutty visionaries. New England towns were stable democratic units, the firm props upon which a stable republican commonwealth was built.

Your comments are instructive & interesting and have prompted productive thought on my part, for which I am grateful.

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Forrest Nabors
on March 03, 2018 at 14:26:27 pm

John,

A historical point of information: Kentucky was only "lightly-enslaved" compared to Mississippi and South Carolina. The census of 1860 shows over 200,000 slaves in a total population just over 1million. That's a lot of slaves.

I really encourage you to read my book, which addresses the contest over the territories. All scholars view this as a contest between proslavery & antislavery forces simply. But if, as the Republicans and I argue, slavery is a potent institution that converts republican governments into oligarchic governments, then that means that everywhere slavery is planted and grows, oligarchic government grows. Both sides knew this, which is why principled, proslavery oligarchs and principled antislavery republicans both also knew that their struggle was between oligarchy and republicanism. I will add that all of us today are indebted to the republican victory, without which, the American political regime and world history would look very different.

I have never heard of seen that document to which you refer, and gentlemen's agreement usually means, without a document. The best source of evidence against this view, that South Carolina was given the right to secede at the formation of the Union, is the leader of the South Carolina delegation to the Federal Convention, C.C Pinckney. In the South Carolina ratifying convention, he says that SC became a perpetual part of the Union upon signing the Declaration in '76, and that any other view was "heresy." I also turn you to the Articles of Confederation. The full title is "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union."

Your argument seems to be, that on the basis of that gentlemen's agreement, VA, and by extension, all states, were obliged to secede if SC wished to secede. This would make the bonds compacting the Union into a rope of sand.

The only state that I know that entered the Union with such a proviso was Texas, in 1845. That was a mistake by the federal government, but by then, Calhoun's influence was such that opposition to this proviso was a political risk. Including that explicit proviso helped Calhoun and his disciples make the case that the right to secession was always implicit. I say, baloney. My book hopefully reveals what the oligarchic political motives were behind Calhoun's constitutionalism and policies.

Regards,
Forrest

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Forrest Nabors
on March 03, 2018 at 15:59:49 pm

'@ Nabors

Re: the Bay as a Leveller republic. I welcome that discussion and I believe I can demonstrate that all of the New England colonies were indeed Leveller republics. Note, I intentionally did not include the Diggers but the Diggers were certainly part of the Independent coalition; albeit the socialist part. Hill is usually understood to argue that the Diggers were proto-Marxists and that constitutional democratic republicans and constitutional socialist democratic republicans have a common origin in the Independent faction of the Long Parliament. You may find Eduard Bernstein's "Cromwell and Communism" (1895) interesting on this point.

Have you read The Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641?

https://history.hanover.edu/texts/masslib.html#ms

A lot happened between 1517-1640. Diarmaid MacCulloch's "The Reformation" (2005) and Philip Benedict's "Christ's Churches Purely Reformed" (2002) are excellent surveys of the Reformation.

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EK
on March 03, 2018 at 17:59:38 pm

Forrest,
I think it is an interesting supposition that Samuel Adams co-authored Otis's 1763 pamphlet. Adams appears to have been more "Lockean" than many other leading patriots, including his cousin John. This could be because Adams wasn't a trained lawyer. Perhaps Lockean thought served as a "bridge" between those with legal educations and the rest of the educated public.

But on the other hand, future lawyers and ministers studied Cicero before and during college, and the thought of Puritan Massachusetts as well as Elizabethan England was grounded in the classics. See "Education in Massachusetts Bay" at https://www.founderspatriots.org/articles/mass_education.php

One thing to keep in mind is that Locke's Second Treatise and Locke's Essay Concerning the Human Understanding often get lumped together in the minds of modern scholars, which can result in anachronistic projection, especially when dealing with the Declaration of Independence. The critical issue, in my mind, is "happiness," as defined by Congress in May 1776; and then Congress famously associated happiness with natural right (which Locke NEVER did) in July . The Second Treatise can be read as consistent with English and colonial constitutional thought (with no mention of "happiness"). However, the Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, where Locke deals with "happiness," is fundamentally at odds with Cicero and with Cicero's modern followers Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel.

The fundamental importance of "happiness" for American constitutional and political thought is underscored by Chief Justice Marshall, who observed in Marbury v. Madison: "That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own HAPPINESS is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected." And this, together with the Declaration of Independence's association of happiness with natural ("unalienable") rights, is why the May 1776 anti-Lockean congressional definition of happiness is so important, at least to my mind.

This question of the meaning of happiness brings up the unbridgeable chasm between Cicero's and Locke's moral psychology, which I discuss in "Cicero, Natural Law, and the Declaration of Independence" at https://www.academia.edu/6508461/Cicero_Natural_Law_and_the_Declaration_of_Independence

A final thought, relating to your comment on "the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Locke and in Aquinas": We could also talk about the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Cicero and his medieval English follower John of Salisbury (both of whom advocated tyrannicide), and in Magna Carta and Bracton (who wrote that the barons and the people should "bridle" an unruly king), and in the 1649 verdict and death sentence against King Charles I (which brings us back to tyrannicide). As I see things, Locke, with his language of "a long train of abuses" leading inexorably toward despotism, simply put a fine point on age-old English constitutional thought.

Best,
John

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John Schmeeckle
on March 03, 2018 at 19:08:52 pm

Forrest,
I think it is an interesting supposition that Samuel Adams co-authored Otis’s 1763 pamphlet. Adams appears to have been more “Lockean” than many other leading patriots, including his cousin John. This could be because Adams wasn’t a trained lawyer. Perhaps Locke served as a “bridge” between those with legal educations and the rest of the educated public.

But on the other hand, future lawyers and ministers studied Cicero before and during college, and the thought of Puritan Massachusetts as well as Elizabethan England was grounded in the classics. See “Education in Massachusetts Bay” at https://www.founderspatriots.org/articles/mass_education.php

One thing to keep in mind is that Locke’s Second Treatise and Locke’s Essay Concerning the Human Understanding often get lumped together in the minds of modern scholars, which can result in anachronistic projection, especially when dealing with the Declaration of Independence. The critical issue, in my mind, is “happiness,” as defined by Congress in May 1776; and then Congress famously associated happiness with natural right (which Locke NEVER did) in July . The Second Treatise can be read as consistent with English and colonial constitutional thought (with no mention of “happiness”). However, the Essay Concerning the Human Understanding, where Locke deals with “happiness,” is fundamentally at odds with Cicero and with Cicero’s modern followers Hutcheson, Burlamaqui and Vattel.

The fundamental importance of “happiness” for American constitutional and political thought is underscored by Chief Justice Marshall, who observed in Marbury v. Madison: “That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own HAPPINESS is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected.” And this, together with the Declaration of Independence’s association of happiness with natural (“unalienable”) rights, is why the May 1776 anti-Lockean congressional definition of happiness is so important, at least to my mind.

This question of the meaning of happiness brings up the unbridgeable chasm between Cicero’s and Locke’s moral psychology, which I discuss in “Cicero, Natural Law, and the Declaration of Independence” at https://www.academia.edu/6508461/Cicero_Natural_Law_and_the_Declaration_of_Independence

A final thought, relating to your comment on “the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Locke and in Aquinas”: We could also talk about the right of revolution in the event the king rules tyrannically in Cicero and his medieval English follower John of Salisbury (both of whom advocated tyrannicide), and in Magna Carta and Bracton (who wrote that the barons and the people should “bridle” an unruly king), and in the 1649 verdict and death sentence against King Charles I (which brings us back to tyrannicide). As I see things, Locke, with his language of “a long train of abuses” leading inexorably toward despotism, simply put a fine point on age-old English constitutional thought.

Best,
John

read full comment
Image of John Schmeeckle
John Schmeeckle

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