Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, February 26, 2005  

Was the Civil War worth it?

In a discussion I was having on another blog with a libertarian, certain points centered on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. From only having actually read the language and words, I contended that the clause “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; “ did not refer to nationalization of the Federal Bill of Rights since every state already had nationalized it in their own constitution; and that the clause does not make any reference to the Bill of Rights. I contended it was a reference to the 13th Amendment intended to protect the freedoms of former slaves.

I was wrong. But I was also right. The debates about the 14th speak of the intent to guarantee the rights enumerated in the Fed. Bill of Rights and, in effect, make Americans national citizens apart from the authority of any state.

I was right when I said that the amendment doesn’t clearly state what its intent is. It doesn’t even use the word - rights .

But my error of historical knowledge has led to another area of consideration.

Before, I get to that I want to point out that the 14th Amendment was the work of fools. That’s pretty harsh, but what is the purpose of a radical redefinition of the relationship between the Federal Government and the states that was useless for nearly 100 years in protecting rights, and then when used, became distorted and abused in ways never foreseen until it now serves no function whatever except to take power out of the hands of people in their localities and gives it to Federal courts and judges?

If the result of the Civil War was to strengthen the Federal Government at the expense of the States and the right of the people to act locally to determine how they shall live, and that slavery in the South would be replaced by a near police state of suppression of rights of former slaves and extreme violence or effective threats of it, then what good was the War Between the States all in all? Qui bono?

The saddest fact of all, was not that the war could have been avoided, but that the situation of slavery as the necessary cause of it was terribly miscalculated by both sides. The simple truth is that slavery in a civilized nation was doomed. It died without a fight throughout the civilized world.

Slavery in the South was unlikely to last another twenty years. It was a growing matter of shame that the South would have been compelled to alter.

Arguments are made about why men on each side fought. To preserve the Union or to preserve their rights of their States and themselves. But there can be no doubt that the cause was slavery and the disagreement which became irreconcilable in the matter of admitting new states.

It is miserably ironic that Lincoln who engraved in our minds the notion of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” would be responsible more than anyone (his Party) in removing authority from the people in their states and localities and transferring to the Federal Government and its judges.

It means that on a local level anything that can be argued to fall under a privilege in the Bill of Rights can be determined by a small, unaccountable group of people in Washington, D.C. There is nothing reserved locally to any town, city, or state when challenged as a “right”.

For example, the legality of child pornography can only be determined on a Federal level, and ultimately by SCOTUS; as it did when a federal law making the sale or transfer of animated child porn was determined to be unconstitutional. So much for the previous idea it decided as to local standards of decency. That never even entered the equation.

Thus, there is no town, city, or state which can say, even if 90% of its people agree, any form of child pornography is impermissible to own, make, or transfer.

There is also no local authority which can rely on its own judgment to declare that no school student can say F U to another student or adult in the school without consequence. It becomes a question of freedom of speech which the federal courts must ultimately decide if a student decides to sue the school board.

Reasonably people will laugh and say, “That’s not going to happen! No court would allow that! Even those courts know we have to maintain some form of discipline and authority in school.”

Mmm hmm. That’s what people say every decade and then turn around and find that those courts allow things previously thought impossible for reasonable people to allow.

The point is not entirely whether the federal courts will allow this or that, but they have taken the power from the people to determine how they shall live in their homes and communities. They have taken it upon themselves to decide what is good and what is bad, or to allow what they know is bad because they don’t think anyone has a right to disallow it.

If a town has ordinances that fine spitting or swearing in public, that becomes a federal issue. This is Lincoln’s legacy.

Nor can one say that it followed in the wake of his death, for which he can’t be held responsible. Lincoln had a vision of a nation united as a people, and not of a nation composed of separate states. The States were not to have their own rights apart from the Federal Government. The 14th Amendment is a clear reflection of the Republican Party’s vision of a newer nation brought forth from the war.

(A quick aside on a sophistical construct. It could be argued that since the States never had the authority to secede from the Fed. Government, they could not be re-admitted under any conditions such as having to ratify the 14th Amendment since they had never actually left the union. The war was thus not between states but between government and outlaws, cops and robbers; purely an act of law enforcement.

The reasoning is obviously moot, though, and irrelevant.)

I am tempted to say that in preserving the Union, Lincoln destroyed the rights of the people to self-determination. I don’t know if I want to go that far, as yet, since it remains in the hands of the people to call a Constitutional Convention or amend the present document if they can muster the number of representatives to accomplish it.

The likelihood of that is not high, which is why I must return to my original point a year ago which suggested the possibility of a new civil war in our future.

I don’t believe that any kind of war would restore America and the states to a condition of law prior to 1860. Wars almost never accomplish their desired purposes. They rearrange the world, alter customs and cultures, but rarely is the outcome as hoped or expected. The American Revolution was a rarity in how much it fulfilled its purpose.

A future war in this country would simply turn the Constitution into the sport of victors. In the late Roman Republic, the destruction of its constitution by inches and feet by various factions culminated in a final dictator (Caesar) and was inevitable.

I rarely consider events in history as inevitable, but in the case of Rome, they were. Its republic could no longer function in any degree as a compromise between factions. It became an all or nothing matter for the parties involved.

Will the American system eventually come to that head? Probably in some way, but I would expect initiation of violence to come from the Left. Look at what the Left lacks. Representative power in legislatures. Lack of executive power nationally and in most states. The support of a military composed mostly of center right men and women who are overwhelmingly conservative and religious. It appears, that the Left is going to lose its dominance in the federal and state courts in the near future. And even a reform of the academies and public schools may be in the offing in the next decade or two.

Under those circumstances it would appear that any violent action of the Left is doomed to utter failure and impotence. So that’s the good news.

But consider this: a great number of dedicated people willing to work in concert with external enemies to deliver death in mass numbers to Americans in order to create chaos which would give them the opportunity to gain power.

If the Weathermen of the 60’s could have acquired enough sarin gas to kill the population of army bases or of an Oklahoma City, would they have done it? I think they would. Their actions were only limited by their resources. Not by their rhetoric.

Imagine a few hundred Tim McVeighs and thousands more useful idiots at work. His and Terry Nichols’ possible connection to Islamic terrorists cannot be that easily dismissed.

Well, the future will be violent. Mass convulsions are inevitable. The will to power is as unrelenting as the will to service. It is built into the creature to have to choose.

The further question as to whether the American people will ever recover their rights and powers under law is mixed. They may recover some while losing others. I am not hopeful since I cannot think of another instance of a free people retaining that freedom over centuries.

Some say great men make history and can change its course. That’s true. But what happens when there aren’t great men? History moves by the internal forces of mass numbers of people, which is most of the time, in the direction of self-destruction or conflict.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:02 PM |