The War for the Old Republic

DontTreadThumbby Steve Lancaster   1/20/14
The War Between the States was fought over the issue of slavery but the implicit purpose of the war was to define what style of government would dominate in North America. The battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg are the last breath of the Jeffersonian concept of small republic. After the first week of July 1863 the interventionist progressive state could not lose the war and the old Republic could not win. Control of the most massive governmental apparatus ever to exist on earth fell into the hands of statists no different than the Europeans the founders had fought in 1776. Although, libertarian and republican supporters of individual liberty and minimal government would continue the political battle with some small success until the passage of the 16th and17th amendments. These amendments which established an income tax and the direct election of senators forever restricted the individual states ability to preserve their liberty and independence.

Lincoln, better than any politician of the age, speaking at Gettysburg in November 1863, understood the dramatic changes in the political system that is the result of the war. The address at Gettysburg speaks to a new and more forceful federalism and an inferior position for the states. The tone is one of government that does more of everything for the people, “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Lincoln stresses the power of government to achieve the goals set out by the government, but never mentions the cost to individual liberty. Lincoln never asks, just because you can do something, does it mean you should do it? Lincoln’s focus was the destruction of slavery and the reformation of the union. From this time forward it did not matter which side would be the victor of the war the true conqueror would be larger and more intrusive government. The outcome would be the same even if the Confederacy attained independence.

Until the passage of the 16th amendment the federal government was financed by land sales and excise taxes principally on alcohol. The 16th amendment changes the funding of the federal government to the income tax and creates a financial method for continued expansion of the government by taking money from one group of taxpayers and giving it to another, the dream of modern progressives and social democrats, unlimited funds and millions of “needy” to distribute that money to. It was during this period, 1890-1930, that private charities, like Hull House, lost their independence and became the conduit for federal government largess. The rationalization was to better assist the less fortunate, the objective of the officials in DC was to buy votes with public money. In addition to directly funding charities, tax exemptions were structured to organizations involved in charity work creating dependence on the government by those organizations. The ability to buy votes with taxpayer money expanded exponentially and Democrats and Republicans both embrace the largesse.

The 17th amendment limited even more of the power and influence from the states. The founders understood that the federal government, although, a creation of the states, could amass unbelievable power if unchecked by the people and the states; it was with this thought in mind that the senate and its members were to be the representatives of the states and indirectly represent the people of the state. Changing the Constitution to direct election was a transfer of power from state government to the voting public, thus, senators become nothing more than super congressmen with a six year term of office and pay only lip service to their responsibility to represent the sovereign state.

The populist political party, in the latter quarter of the 19th century and early 20th century, contributed to the feeling on the part of rural people that large corporations, especially railroads, were conspiring to keep farm prices down. In addition, the use of gold as a basis for currency impacted the purchasing power of farmers. Demands for the government to fix problems increased with anti-trust legislation encouraged by Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson.

By the end of the century populism in this form had worn out its welcome however, new and more pathological strains of the populist type infection develop, the most popular and despicable is eugenics. Eugenics is the study of human genetics to cull out, (read improve the race) or limit undesired traits. In the eyes of many popular political leaders of the time this meant limit the growth of the Black population. This unproven theory supported by Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Margret Sanger, Woodrow Wilson and countless others throughout the country and around the world establishes eugenics as an accepted academic study, supported by government and universities, in states, like California, thousands of men and women would be sterilized at places like Patton State Hospital in Highlands CA, and/or imprisoned without a court order merely on the determination that they were the wrong race, or “simple minded”.

It was during this period, 1890-1929, that most Jim Crow laws were passed limiting the ability of Blacks to vote, travel and exercise their constitutional rights. The majority of these laws were passed by members of the Democrat party and only changed under political pressure by Republicans in the 1950’s, (Brown v Board of Education 1954) and by 1964 the civil rights act, which was opposed by most of the leadership of the Democrat party North and South.

Although, general revulsion of policies like eugenics faded after the Second World War due in large part to the fascination with eugenics by the Nazis and the Holocaust. The progressive movement moved covertly to distance itself from its Eugenics history however, it did not die out. The growth of the civil rights movement in the late 1940’s, led by men like Thurgood Marshall, and later Martin Luther King challenged the progressive establishment of the democrat party. The modern democrat party embraced eugenics in the 1960’s in the form of the “right to choose” abortion on demand philosophy. By 2000 over 50 million abortions had been performed in the United States primarily among lower classes and poor Blacks. The right to choose became code for modern racists for Negro elimination.

In America today, almost as many Black children are aborted as are born. A black baby is three times more likely to be murdered in the womb than a white baby. Since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 25 percent. Twice as many African-Americans have died from abortion than have died from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined. Every three days, more African-Americans are killed by abortion than were been killed by the Ku Klux Klan in its entire history.

About 13 percent of American women are black, but they submit to over 35 percent of the abortions. Planned Parenthood operates the nation’s largest chain of abortion clinics, funded in large part with tax dollars, and almost 80 percent of its facilities are located in minority neighborhoods.

Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson’s dream and that of other of 20th century progressives has come true with court approval and general public acceptance of abortion on demand. In their view intellectual and social inferiors are being eliminated for the good of the population. Of the 50 million abortions since 1973 at least 35 percent have been for Black women or 15 million dead, a score that would surprise but please even Mengele and Eichmann.

Slavery was evil, but compared to the abortion industry, slavery was a temporary aberration. It is impossible to consider that the founders would continence abortion on demand as the ultimate expression of human freedom, even the freest thinking, like Jefferson, would recoil in revulsion at the numbers of infants murdered. Jefferson would cite the ancient Spartan concept of infanticide as more compassionate for the new born than death by D & C.

Thus, by little deaths, the old republic transformed into the modern progressive federal state. On a moral level the concepts of the 10 Commandments and the parallel development of natural law in the Bill of Rights are in retreat and secular ideas replacing God with the state are the new norm.

Over the last 150 years the federal government continues to expand until today it is presumed by voters, congressmen and senators that government is essential to provide the safety net for plethora of social ills, real and imagined. Government will now “assist” people to solve social problems that people had been successfully dealing with for thousands of years; the new federal state is loco parentis and is charged to provide a “fair and equal” solution to everything. That government assistance comes with a price of self-respect and slavery to the state.

The republic that the founders envisioned, even by Federalists like Hamilton and Washington, was forever ended by the War of Northern Invasion. The possibility of a rollback is slim, if not impossible, however it is conceivable that limiting the growth of the federal state can be accomplished with aggressive attention to the Constitution and reflection on the values of the founders. • (1982 views)

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10 Responses to The War for the Old Republic

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    It’s important to remember, as you suggest, that the Confederates (under the pressure of the war, just like the Union) had an increasingly dominant central state power, and especially a significant amount of war socialism, though state’s rights remained more powerful there. But, as Carl Sandburg observed, the War of the rebellion ultimately changed the USA from a collection of sovereign states (note that a “state” referred to a sovereign country, and a “congress” was a chamber of representatives of sovereign countries) to a centralized union. It’s also important to remember, given how many libertarians strongly dislike Cousin Abe, that the massive growth of government power started a few decades afterward, and has proceeded ever since with occasional pauses (or near-pauses), most notably in the 1920s and 1980s.

  2. faba calculo says:

    “the civil rights act, which was opposed by most of the leadership of the Democrat party North and South”

    I don’t think this is true (unless by “opposed” you meaning something different than “voted against”). Party played very little role in the vote, with region being almost the sole determinant. The following is the vote counts from Wikipedia for the first version of the bill in each house. Perhaps the vote was different with later versions (see:

    The original House version:
    Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
    Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
    Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
    Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)

    The Senate version:

    Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
    Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
    Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
    Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

    So southern Democrats appear to have been a bit more in favor in both houses and in both regions. Not that the difference was at all large.

    Furthermore, I think you’ve been reading a different version of the Gettysburg Address than I have.

    However, apart from those two things, it would be impossible to deny that the Civil War set the ball in motion of the relegation of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the attic like some crazy uncle.

  3. steve lancaster says:

    Indeed, the CSA government soon discovered that it must compel the individual states to contribute to the war effort. Thus, the involuntary conscription, high taxes, inflation and a clause in the constitution forbidding secession.

    If you read the secession statements from the various states, Arkansas is one of the most interesting, but perhaps I have a bias since my family has been in Arkansas since 1814. The secession statements do not have any natural law basis, the claim is for states rights, aka slavery, but to fully embrace natural law they would have to reject slavery entirely, something that the planter class could not, and would not do. Most of the statements try, very badly, to take the form of the Declaration of Independence and at the same time reject natural law as it applies to slavery. It just does not work.

    I suggest that had the states seceded on a true natural law basis, with a quick end to slavery, and independence from the ever growing federal state in DC then the CSA would in some form have been successful as the sentiment over the union and slavery in the North was, at best, marginal. Yankees were at least as racist as the most dedicated Southern “fire eater”.

    Yesterday was Robert E. Lee 207 birthday, tomorrow is Stonewall Jackson 187.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, my recollection is that the Confederate Constitution didn’t ban secession; it simply didn’t explicitly permit it. The Confederates considered it a pre-existing right of the states.


    Blaming the 17th Amendment for the growth of statism has lately become, if not common, at least a frequent explanation. Frankly, I find this bizarre: why would the transfer of the authority to elect U.S. Senators from the state legislatures to the people themselves somehow have left the people or their liberties in a worse position? To say that Senators are supposed to represent their respective states is meaningless; they are supposed to represent the people of the states. Why then should not the people elect their Senators directly?

    Democratic Senators do not safeguard the liberties of their constituents because they do not believe in the liberty of their constituents; sadly, most of the people who elect them don’t care about preserving their own freedom. It is true that Democratic Senators are even further Left than their constituents, the Obamacare vote being a case in point. But in hellholes like Taxachusetts or California it little matters whether the people elect Democrat Diane Feinstein or whether they elect an assembly that is 2/3 Democratic and which then elects Diane Feinstein – the end result is the same.

    What is needed is not a repeal of the 17th Amendment but Senators and Representatives who conscientiously obey every other part of the Constitution, or who are compelled to do so by an angry and militant public.

    Blaming the growth of Federal power on the civil war is another common refrain we’ve heard for years. Its appeal rests primarily on the fact that the Federal Government did indeed use force to compel the states which had attempted secession to remain in the Union against their will. But the Federal Government in the years immediately after Reconstruction was a fraction of the size and power it is today, suggesting that something else caused the growth of statism. That something was first the rise of the idea that large businesses were somehow dangerous and needed to be brought under government control, along with the rise of Progressivism later. Neither of these two baleful influences had anything to do with the Civil War.

    It should be remembered that the South did not secede to preserve its freedom; if it had, and the Federal Government had then squashed that rebellion, the states would at that moment have been shorn of all their legitimate authority by a dictatorial central government. But that isn’t what happened: the South seceded because it was determined to spread slavery all over the western territories, and that was too much for the men of the north. Nor was it a legitimate cause for secession, a topic ripe for discussion today as the Federal Government’s current excesses do provide adequate grounds for secession.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think the key concern about the 17th Amendment is that it switched senators away from representing their state governments, thus allowing themselves to become part of a unitary centralizing federal government. This was certainly the era in which the feds increasingly dominated the states, but to what degree that resulted from the 17th Amendment on the one hand, and the two resulted from the same reformers on the other, cannot be said for certain.

      As for the causes of the secession that led to the War of the Rebellion (I call it that because that’s the terminology used in the Official Records), note that (as I’ve pointed out before) when the Confederates retreated after the Third Battle of Winchester (September 19, 1864), the sardonic Jubal Early asked John C. Breckinridge, “Well, what do you think of ‘our rights in the territories’ now?”

    • steve lancaster says:


      The founders intent was for the house to be the people’s house, thus the election every two years. The senate on the other hand, was intended to represent the sovereignty of the states. This is integral to the checks and balances of the federal system. The states surrendered a portion of their sovereignty to create the central government, but withheld the rights not specifically given to the central government embodied in the 9th and 10th amendments.

      The 17th amendment destroys the intent of this system reducing the states ability to exert their interests. Thus, the direct election of senators reduces the influence of the states in the federal government. Just another gift from the turn of the century progressives who are the direct descendants of Obama.

      IMHO, secession should always be on the table, for any reason. It is a political act. Yes, the south seceded for all the wrong reasons. We should have freed all the slaves and then fired on Ft. Sumter.

    • LibertyMark says:

      “To say that Senators are supposed to represent their respective states is meaningless; they are supposed to represent the people of the states. Why then should not the people elect their Senators directly?”

      Not true, or only partially true. We are or supposed to be a representative republic, not a democracy in the strictest sense. Senators represent the people, yes, but this was supposed to be via the people’s elected state legislature.

      What the 17th did was to undo a structural check that the Framers placed in the Constitution to prevent centralization of power in the Federal. It was not a mistake or oversight on their part and was not “corrected” by the populist nonsense of the early 20th century. This same nonsense brought us that other populist nightmare, the ballot initiative. Who needs a state legislature when you can simply legislate by the tyranny of the 50 plus 1?

      One thing the Framers feared most, and that was mob rule. They understood it from their study of history and were observing it in the unfolding French Revolution. Having Senators report to and be beholden to the state legislatures was another layer – firewall if you will – to check that tyranny of the 50+1.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        This same nonsense brought us that other populist nightmare, the ballot initiative. Who needs a state legislature when you can simply legislate by the tyranny of the 50 plus 1?

        In the State of Washington we have the ballot initiative. And given the hegemony of liberalism, both in the courts and the legislature, the ballot initiative can be seen as a check on state power. Even so, our local initiative hero, Tim Eyman, has had many of his state-checking initiatives passed only to be disingenuously overturned by the courts (whose jurists make John Roberts look like a contemplative man in comparison). In the People’s Republic of Washington, we are truly ruled by men (pansy Leftist men, if you will, and pansy Leftist women), not law.

        Your point, Mark, about the republican nature of the Senate (as it used to be before direct selection) is correct. The House/Senate was originally a compromise between the big states and small states, of course. But once adopted, it was put to use as another check on Federal power. The House was to be more directly responsible to the people while the Senate was to have some insulation from the mob and be a more deliberative body, less prone to the swings of passions and fads.

        As well as this division, there was included in the way the Senators were elected a check on Federal power. With the Senate being beholden to the interests of the legislatures (who were bound to have more local interests in mind), this was (and has so obviously proven to be the case) a wise thing. With the direct selection of Senators, it is not “the people’s” interests which are protected. Instead, this has changed the office of Senator to a de facto nation-wide office. Given that “popular elections” means, in practice, whoever can throw the most money at advertising and buying influence, those running for the Senate will follow the money, and most of that money and influence is not local to the state nor beholden to any particular interest of any one state.

        And whatever state interests the Senatorial candidates run on tend to simply be 100% demagogic issues. The idea of the thoughtful statesman is now an obvious joke. Aside from perhaps Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz, they do not exist anymore. A thoughtful person almost certainly makes for a poor candidate in terms of a popular election. But there is certainly a greater possibility that experienced state legislators would choose one.

        That said, if you look at my own State of Washington, the legislators would most likely choose an Al Franken type of dumb ass if given the choice. The 17th Amendment ought to be repealed. But the state of the corruption and infantilization of the Left is so deep and widespread, it’s hard to imagine the state legislators (at least in my state) making wiser choices than “the people.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Even aside from whatever doubts one has about democracy (“the worst form of government, barring all the rest of them” in the opinion of Churchill), one must note that The People are never concerned about process issues, but instead vote teleologically. Inevitably, this means that directly elected Senators, though concerned with parochial issues that are important to local voters (e.g., the pork barrel, which was also important to state governments so there was no change in that respect), now see themselves as representing the nation rather than their individual states.

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