Did the Constitution Betray the Revolution?

YES

The Constitution as counterrevolution: a tribute to the Anti-Federalists.

The standard American myth celebrates the Constitution as the triumphant culmination of the American Revolution. This is largely untrue and misleading.

The alleged "critical period" between the end of the Revolution and the Constitution's adoption was not dominated by economic depression, political turmoil, and international peril, jeopardizing the independent survival of the American experiment in liberty. Those who assembled at the Philadelphia Convention to write a new Constitution were not disinterested demigods, nor did they intend to establish a federal system of divided government powers. The Constitution did not have the support of most Americans. And finally, rather than representing the culmination of the previous Revolution, the Constitution represented a reactionary counter revolution against its central principles.

The American Revolution, like all great social upheavals, was brought off by a disparate coalition of competing viewpoints and conflicting interests. At one end of the Revolutionary coalition stood the American radicals-men such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Richard Henry Lee, and Thomas Jefferson.

Although by no means in unanimous agreement, the radicals objected to excessive state power in general and not simply to British rule in particular. Spearheading the Revolution's opening stages, they were responsible for the truly revolutionary alterations in the internal status quo: the abolition of slavery in the northern states, the separation of church and state in the southern states, the rooting out of remaining feudal privileges everywhere, and the adoption of new, republican state constitutions containing written bills of rights that severely hemmed in government power.

At the other end of the Revolutionary coalition were the American nationalists-an array of mercantile, creditor, and landed interests. The nationalists went along with independence but opposed the Revolution's libertarian thrust. They sought a strong American state with the hierarchical features of the 18th-century British state, only without the British.

The Revolution started out as a struggle against taxation. What passed among the newly independent American states for a central government, the Second Continental Congress, did not have access even to this usual state power. For revenue, Congress initially had to rely on requisitions from the state governments, which could not get away with very extensive taxation themselves.

Yet the military strategy adopted by Congress required large expenditures. Military conservatives such as George Washington induced Congress to focus the Revolutionary effort on a costly conventional force, the Continental Army, rather than the militias. By the 1781 Yorktown campaign, popular disgust at the army's continuing hand-to-mouth existence gave the nationalists uncontested control of Congress. They proceeded to implement a financial program that gave the central government much more power.

Already, the Revolution had taken an important step in this direction with the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, a written constitution. Here we encounter the first distortion in America's constitutional myth. The Articles left Congress not too weak, as defenders of the Constitution claim, but too strong: the Articles made the central government permanent; and an influential nationalist faction-land speculators-delayed ratification until Congress was given direct jurisdiction over the states' western lands. The Articles' only saving grace was that they failed to give Congress any authority to collect taxes or regulate trade.

At the time of the Articles' adoption, the most powerful nationalist in Congress was Robert Morris, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant. Congress appointed him head of the newly created Department of Finance, from which post he became a virtual financial dictator. The central government's functions were concentrated within his and other new executive departments, which Morris filled with his allies and partners.

The linch pin of Morris's financial system was the power of taxation. Only thus could the nationalists' desired centralization of power be consummated. An amendment to the Articles granting Congress the power to impose an import duty looked in 1782 like it would receive the required unanimous approval of the states, but tiny Rhode Island held out.

Morris and the nationalists made a last-ditch effort in March 1783 to coerce the states with the Continental Army, then encamped at Newburgh, New York. They encouraged a plot among Washington's officers, and a military coup loomed on the horizon. The radical suspicion of standing armies stood fully vindicated, for never has the United States been closer to succumbing to an American Caesar. At this point, however, Washington, although firmly endorsing nationalist goals, balked. His personal intervention caused the Newburgh conspiracy to disband.

Peace unraveled Morris's financial and military program. As the war wound down, the financial pressure on the national government, and the apparent need to grant taxing power to Congress, diminished. The nationalists lost control of Congress in late 1783, and Morris resigned his post after an incriminating investigation into his financial machinations. Congress wisely discharged most of what was left of the Continental Army.

Unfortunately, the war-induced nationalization of the Northwest lands had shifted the burden of policing that territory from the states to a national force. So Congress authorized a small frontier constabulary to be raised from the state militias for fixed periods. (The still-unceded Southwest territory got along fine without congressional attention.) Eastern land speculators, however, found the Northwest force insufficient to protect their vast claims from Indians, squatters, and foreign intrigue. They looked forward instead to a strong standing army.

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  • John||

    Yeah, not having a national market and allowing states to erect trade barriers would have worked out so well. So would have having no national defense. I am sure the imperial powers of the 19th Century would have never bullied the US or picked off various parts of the country or anything. Never.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    For the record, we fought the world's largest and most sophisticated military at that time without a Federal government or "national defense". As a matter of fact we fought it with about 20% of the population of 13 independent governments and militias (I suppose the continentals get some credit too).

    Sure there were contributing factors such as England's over extension and Lafayette but still. We did win. For all the problems of the Articles the delegates were still only authorized to "fix" them, not throw them out and start from scratch.

  • John||

    Of course that same country kicked the shit out of us in 1812. England didn't lose, it gave up. But, England was trying to recapture the entire country. Picking a part, say Spain showing up to take Georgia, would have been a lot easier

  • Almanian!||

    "gave up"

    Exactly. We were Britain's Viet Nam. Kind of ironic...

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Yes, they torched some ugly building in a swamp. We still repelled them. If GA had been under specific fire from Spain (and remember, Coase is an acceptable tactic toward victory) I am sure the other colonies would have repeated the joint defenses.

    What is lost on many people is those colonies were VERY different places, they were separate countries unto themselves. Even after 1789 there was hardly a big cumbayah(sp) moment. See 1860 for proof.

  • John||

    I am sure the other colonies would have repeated the joint defenses.

    Why? The North had very little in common with the South. And there is nothing to say that it wouldn't have been in the other colonies interests. A foreign power could have just bought them off if nothing else. Further, as technology advanced, the ability of individual states to maintain a modern army and navy would have gotten smaller and smaller.

    Remember, the Revolutionary war was before even Napoleon. Armies were much smaller. Once industrial age armies came about in the 19th Century, it would have been impossible.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    This would have driven some unique situations for sure. It is of course pointless to debate but fun none the less. I tend to think we could have been successful under a better Articles than the Constitution but all in all I aint bitching about that part of our country's history.

  • John||

    I don't understand the bitching about the Constitution. People think just because Roosevelt and the progs raped it and took away all of its meaning beyond "fuck you that is why" that it is a bad document. No, it is a great document and a great system that endured for a very long time and created a great and mostly free country. By any standard it is the greatest political compact of all time. It is not the document or the founders' fault we decided to piss on it.

    If the Constitution has one fault it is that it is too good. People grew to rely on it for protecting their freedom and making things right and have lost the ability to do so themselves. Just because the government has the power to do something doesn't mean it should or the population doesn't bear some responsibility to stop it instead of just depending on a judge to do their dirty work for them. Both sides are horribly guilty of this. Look at gay marriage. Libertarians want gay marriage, they should get states to pass it. Instead, they run to their roved overlords and get them to rape the document and make it a "right". Once you go down the road of "the Constitution is there to make the government the way I want it" rather than, "the constitution is there to set some specific limits and create our system of government" you are doomed.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I think the One Fault is the fact it has not teeth.

    That would solve a lot of problems.

  • Overt||

    The biggest problem with the Constitution was the Commerce Clause. We have seen it used to justify most over-reach in government history. I think that if the constitution had given the US Government more of a WTO-type of "Commerce Mediation" powers, it would have done much to keep the negative parts of interstate commerce mitigated while also keeping the government's power in check.

  • Overt||

    Of course, once the Income Tax was authorized and the government became Uncle Moneybags passing out coin for reform, it became a big setback for liberty.

    But still, a lot of the country's ability to Buy states into submission comes from its taking over swaths of our economy using the Commerce Clause. If they hadn't been able to control the road system, they wouldn't have been able to pull half the shit that they have done at the federal level.

  • John||

    But the Commerce Clause was never intended to do what it is doing now. It was in fact one of the best parts of the Constitution. It created a national market and kept the states from retraining interstate trade.

    It is not the documents fault that the progs decided to read the Commerce Clause as a loophole to destroy the entire document. That was not how it was intended and it should have never been read that way. Blame Roosevelt and the cowards on the Supreme Court not the framers.

  • Robert||

    There are other handles by which to stretch the US Const. to fit even if you don't consider the commerce clause. The taxing power has been commonly used for the same purpose, and it still can be, as shown by the penaltax.

  • pmains||

    It created a national market and kept the states from retraining interstate trade

    This is disputed. Sheldon Richman argues that the Articles of Confederation already created a free trade zone, although the language seems hazy to me. I don't have time to watch his talk again, but here's the Youtube link.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "We still repelled them."

    We also did not have their full attention at the time, and they had been in what was a World War in all but name for over a decade.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I made mention of that.

  • Overt||

    And we also did it as a full nation, not as a bunch of states. By and large, the US ability to force the end of the War of 1812 was a direct result of our Navy- which was a wholly Federal endeavor. The major land victory of the war- New Orleans- was largely Federal, not militia troops.

    So I think that the war of 1812 goes more towards proving the necessity and supremacy of a national defense, than cooperating militias.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    You have to keep in mind the two generals, Howe and Cornwallis, were not only Whigs, they were Whig MPs. Kind of like tasking generals John Kerry and Chuck Schumer with winning the Vietnam war. Not much question how that would have turned out.

  • John||

    Yes. And they also were such assholes they refused to let the loyalists, of which there were many, do anything to help squash the revolution. It would be like if the US had refused to let the South Koreans form an army.

    It is difficult to fuck up a war as badly as the English fucked that war up.

  • Hawk Spitui||

    Arguably, the Whig faction, which was sympathetic to the colonies, deliberately sabatoged the war. It's wouldn't be the first or last time a war was lost due to internal treachery.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The concept wasn't all that popular in London either. A significant portion of the polity, supposedly, wasn't clear as to the benefits.

  • Robert||

    Cheap rum. What else do you need?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    For which we thank a merciful God.

    And, of course, it is no reflection on the anti-American policies of George III that some of the people they appointed to enforce these policies actually had a soft spot for the rebels. Funny, that.

  • Juice||

    England didn't lose, it gave up.

    That means it lost.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not sure the English could've won. They'd have had a terrible time trying to maintain control if the local population was willing to fight. Remember, this was a war against a modern opponent with a sizable population.

  • Free Society||

    Remember, this was a war against a modern opponent with a sizable population.

    I read somewhere that there were only 2-3 million people in the US at the time of the revolution. Only a fraction of that number could have been in the fighting.

  • Free Society||

    Of course that same country kicked the shit out of us in 1812. England didn't lose, it gave up. But, England was trying to recapture the entire country.

    Britain, not England, did lose. Their supply lines were vast and huge proportions of the British army was captured, killed or deserted by war's end.

    Picking a part, say Spain showing up to take Georgia, would have been a lot easier

    If you remember your history, you'll remember that it was the US who showed up and took almost the entire remnant of the Spanish Empire. Perhaps a bad example?

  • Arn0||

    Is not just about Lafayette : France was the second most powerful state of the time. Without France's help (by money, weapon, soldiers and international war...) it would have been much harder to gain independance.

    The very purpose of independance is to be... independant and not relying on an another foreign power.

  • Free Society||

    The very purpose of independance is to be... independant and not relying on an another foreign power.

    the goal was sovereignty. achieving that sovereignty with an alliance is no the same thing as political dependence.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Several of the Founders made very clear statements at the time that liberty wasn't going to be protected by a piece of paper alone. I don't think they couldn't have been clearer about the only safe course of action being extreme distrust and skepticism about government. That's where we lost our way.

    As the great political philosopher Eric Stratton once said, "You fucked up. . .you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it! Maybe we can help."

  • John||

    No system can account for its people giving up on the idea of liberty. You can't enforce freedom on a society. And you can't have a government that is properly responsible to the demands of the populace that doesn't become tyrannical when the populace becomes so.

  • anon||

    No system can account for its people giving up on the idea of liberty.

    This is true. And today, we're proving that people will readily sacrifice their liberty for anything that looks like security. Or even if they're just told it's for security.

  • sarcasmic||

    Liberty is scary.

    Men with guns who may kill you without consequence if you do not immediately obey and submit is a source of comfort.

    See?

  • anon||

    Yeah, I still don't get that. People are far too scared of dying. I imagine a world full of bubble boys here in the near future.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    this is actually a good thing. Seriously. As a populous we now value life more than ever before. The example of those stone age tribes in New Guinea that were hunting each other to extinction is instructive. When life has little meaning so does property and law. But when life is sacrosanct, as it should be, then law prevails. Unfortunately people conflate government oversight as law.

  • sarcasmic||

    As a populous we now value life more than ever before.

    As long as it has been squirted out of the womb. Until then women have a basic right to have the unwanted growth removed on demand and paid for by the government.

  • Loki||

    As a populous we now value life more than ever before.

    I'm not sure I agree. I think most people value their own lives, sure, but other people's lives? I have my doubts.

  • sarcasmic||

    Kill those damned sand-nigger towel-heads! America! Fuck yeah!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The evidence on this is pretty convincing. See Steven Pinker's work. The overall value of life has risen incredibly in the last 2000 years or so. While the "west" can account for a large portion of it, even rural tribal societies are slowing down on the whole revenge killing thing.

  • Vincent Milburn||

    I partially blame the loss of religion.

  • creech||

    I'm sure we can all pick out flaws we wish had been corrected, to
    2nd amendment, commerce clause, etc. I think the biggest failure of the Constitution was to compromise on slavery rather than to come up with a plan of gradual compensated emancipation. As this was before the invention of the cotton gin, there would have been less resistance to the plan, and it is known that Washington and others would have supported it. And if, say, South Carolina and Georgia refused to accept it, they should have been allowed to depart peacefully.

  • John||

    There was no money to do compensated emancipation. There was just no way it was going to end well.

  • db||

    It could have been treated like the decommissioning funds for nuclear power plants. Require slave owners to post a bond (allow them to expense it if necessary) to fully compensate their charges and or their estates in the future, while eliminating the slave trade and providing for mandatory emancipation over time.

    I find slavery completely disgusting, but the end of it could have been handled so much better that by holding the country's most destructive and lethal war in its history.

    I should read up on this, but anyone know in a nutshell how the British ended their slavery program?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I have no idea, but I imagine it was easier because the British didn't have a bunch of slaves in the UK proper.

  • John||

    I find slavery completely disgusting, but the end of it could have been handled so much better that by holding the country's most destructive and lethal war in its history.

    No it could not have. The South based its entire identity on slavery. Maybe not in 1789 but certainly in the 19th Century. They looked at slavery as their way of life and expanding it as their duty. You have to remember that by the 1830s the big plantations in the east had mostly worn out their land. The plantations on the James river and in the low country of Georgia and the Carolinas were primarily in the business of breeding and exporting slaves. Cotton production had moved West to Mississippi and Louisiana and then Texas. The South needed a constant new supply of land so that they could have someone to sell their slaves to. It was also necessary to expand to keep the slave population both in demand and smaller than the white population. If slavery had ever been contained in the South, the supply of slaves would have started to exceed the demand lowering their value. Worse still, the slave population would have started to approach the white population and it would have gotten harder and harder to control them. Slavery had to expand or the South faced some huge problems.

    For that reason, there was no way the South was ever going to peacefully live as they were or agree to any settlement of the slavery issue that didn't involve aggressive expansion of slavery.

  • sarcasmic||

    No it could not have.

    Jim Crow could never have ended without war. Women could never have gotten the vote without war. Alcohol Prohibition could never have ended without war. Of those things I am absolutely certain and no one can sway my opinion because I am right and they are wrong.

  • John||

    And that proves what? If anything Jim Crow proves my point. Even after losing a war and being occupied for 11 years, the South still wouldn't give up on white supremacy and just recreated as much of slavery as they could. But you honestly think that the same people who went to war over slavery and even after losing that war created Jim Crow would have just voluntarily given up their slaves?

    That is utterly idiotic. Slavery would have never ended in the South without an external invasion or a successful slave revolt. The chances are pretty high that if the South had been allowed to leave, it would have turned into a pariah state like South Africa and there would have eventually been a successful slave revolt. And that if Haiti is any indication, would have ended very badly for everyone involved. Everyone who lives in the nice free place that is the modern south owes a debt to Lincoln for fighting the war and saving them from becoming Haiti.

  • sarcasmic||

    Slavery would have ended for the same reason no one uses oxen to plow their fields anymore. It is not economically viable.

  • Drake||

    So where are all the oxen now?

  • Loki||

    So where are all the oxen now?

    Petting zoos.

  • John||

    Why wouldn't it have been? It was economically viable in 1860. Why would it not be today if you could get away with it? Indeed, the Chinese seem to do pretty well with it. You know how many things are manufactured by Chinese prison labor?

  • sarcasmic||

    You know how many more things are manufactured by Chinese who are leaving subsistence farming to work in the cities under conditions that we would find to be deplorable but are preferable to what they are leaving?
    You know that all this wealth that is being created in China is raising the standard of living for most everyone in the country?
    You know that it won't be long before the lifestyle of the average Chinese person is comparable the the average American?
    You know that this is all because of the abandonment of forced communal (plantation) living and instead capitalistic voluntary labor?

    Voluntary labor will always out-compete slavery because voluntary laborers have incentives. They can improve their lives. Slaves merely exist.

  • Loki||

    It was economically viable in 1860. Why would it not be today if you could get away with it?

    Call it a hunch but I'm pretty sure that it would be a hell of a lot cheaper to plant and harvest a couple hundred acres of cotton using modern industrial machinery than several hundred slaves that have to be fed, clothed, etc. long enough to produce enough value to offset their cost.

    Although I suppose in a counter factual history where slavery wasn't abolished, the old guard plantation owners would have been an entrenched special interest and may have been able to use political influence to prevent many of the modern industrial farming innovations that we take for granted from being invented, but I doubt it. They weren't able to stop the cotton gin from being invented, I doubt they would have been able to stop the combine harvestor, modern tractors, and all the other goodies farmers use at a fraction of the cost of human labor from being invented.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think John is arguing that slaves could be used to operate that machinery. In theory, yes. But the security required to keep productive slaves from taking their skills to someplace free would have vastly offset any comparative advantage of slavery over voluntary labor.

  • ||

    Yeah, Lincoln was a great president, what with signing the Fugitive Slave Act into law and all.

  • anon||

    For that reason, there was no way the South was ever going to peacefully live as they were or agree to any settlement of the slavery issue that didn't involve aggressive expansion of slavery.

    You know the south seceded because of a blatant violation of the 10th amendment, and not particularly slavery, right?

  • John||

    Bullshit. They left over slavery. Every single state declaration said as much in the language. That "we didn't leave over slavery" bullshit is just a fucking myth created after the war. Read the accounts of the time and read the actual secession documents. They all talked about slavery as the primary cause. The South left because Lincoln made it clear that he wasn't going to let slavery expand into the West. And because of that, the South felt that it would eventually be so outvoted by the new free states, that the Constitution could be amended and slavery ended. Also, the South economically had to have new areas of slavery.

  • anon||

    Also, the South economically had to have new areas of slavery.

    I disagree; there's no evidence that slavery is very profitable, but that's a red herring.

    Read the accounts of the time and read the actual secession documents. They all talked about slavery as the primary cause.

    Yes, and the government's intervention in what was constitutionally a state matter.

  • anon||

    To be clear, I am not promoting slavery; I'm just saying that constitutionally it was legit, and it would've gone away somehow or another without a civil war.

  • sarcasmic||

    To be clear, I am not promoting slavery; I'm just saying that constitutionally it was legit, and it would've gone away somehow or another without a civil war.

    Oh, that is untrue. In John's mind you fully support slavery. The only possible way to prove you do not support slavery is to say that Saint Lincoln invaded the South for the sole purpose of abolishing slavery.

    Just as anyone who opposed redefining marriage hates fags, and the only possible way to prove you do not hate fags is to support redefining marriage.

    It's the exact same circular illogic, courtesy of Red Tony.

  • John||

    I disagree; there's no evidence that slavery is very profitable, but that's a red herring.

    That is insane. The price of slaves in 1860 was higher than it ever had been. The South had more millionaires than any other country in the world. Slavery was extremely profitable. Why do you think it spread so much? There is nothing to say that states like Mississippi or Missouri had to be slave states. They were only slave states because slavery paid. And breeding and selling slaves really paid. And doing that was a large part of Virginia and the Carolinas' economy.

  • anon||

    And yet somehow everyone is more profitable with no slaves.

  • John||

    The slave holders were not anon. Most people didn't own slaves. But the ones who did own slaves did very well. If slavery had not been profitable, it would have never made sense to expand it. Slaves would not have had any value. Instead it expanded and slaves were extremely valuable.

    Your argument is totally counter to economic reality.

  • anon||

    Your argument is totally counter to economic reality.

    Actually, it's not. Here's a quick primer for you, followed by an excerpt. Google up as many sources as you want and you'll find technology was making slavery comparatively unprofitable.

    Nearly every sector of the Union economy witnessed increased production. Mechanization of farming allowed a single farmer growing crops such as corn or wheat to plant, harvest, and process much more than was possible when hand and animal power were the only available tools. (By 1860, a threshing machine could thresh 12 times as much grain per hour as could six men.) This mechanization became even more important as many farmers left home to enlist in the Union military. Those remaining behind could continue to manage the farm through the use of labor-saving devices like reapers and horse-drawn planters.

    http://www.nps.gov/resources/story.htm?id=251

  • John||

    Anon,

    So what? The South could have mechanized too. And still used slaves. That is another myth that drives me nuts. The idea that slaves were not skilled labor. Bullshit. Plantations were basically communes that made nearly everything they needed on premises. So there were slaves who were carpenters and metal workers and every other skill. The biggest reason for Jim Crow laws was to keep skilled emancipated blacks from competing with white workers for jobs.

    Slavery could have totally been adapted to mechanized farming or anything else. Hell, the entire Soviet and Nazi war machines were based on slave labor. A whole chunk of the Chinese economy is based on prison labor which amounts to slave labor. Slavery wasn't going anywhere. The idea that it couldn't have been adapted to mechanization is just a myth people invent to pretend the South was something other than what it was.

  • anon||

    Slavery could have totally been adapted to mechanized farming or anything else. Hell, the entire Soviet and Nazi war machines were based on slave labor.

    And we see how well that turned out.

    A whole chunk of the Chinese economy is based on prison labor which amounts to slave labor.

    Only because they have a larger chunk that is not supporting that on slave labor.

    The idea that it couldn't have been adapted to mechanization is just a myth people invent to pretend the South was something other than what it was.

    It takes more money to hire people to make sure your slaves don't escape, then feed/clothe/support slaves, than it does to simply hire people to perform the labor slaves would have done.

    If slavery were well suited to economic gain, then slavery would still be a *large* business today, much like prohibition was still very profitable for alcohol makers in the 20's.

  • John||

    And we see how well that turned out.

    Pretty well for the Soviets. And the Nazis didn't lose because they failed to produce enough armaments. So, yes, I would say that slave labor worked quite well for both of them.

    Only because they have a larger chunk that is not supporting that on slave labor.

    No. It makes money. The rest of the economy making money or not has nothing to do with it. When you can kidnap someone and beat the shit out of them every day if they don't work hard enough, you can get a lot of labor at a very cheap price. That is profitable.

    If slavery were well suited to economic gain, then slavery would still be a *large* business today, much like prohibition was still very profitable for alcohol makers in the 20's.

    Yeah, because kidnapping and keeping someone in bondage is such an easy crime to commit. Just like making illegal booze. Come on. That is idiotic. Slavery isn't done today because it is illegal and actually really difficult to get away with. Slavery only works if the slave has no where to run. If you are doing it underground and all the slave has to do is make it to the neighbors and he is free and you are going to prison forever, it won't work.

    Come on anon. Give up the idiotic idea that slavery wasn't profitable. To believe that is to think that people were buying slaves out of irrationality.

  • ||

    Give up the idiotic idea that slavery wasn't profitable. To believe that is to think that people were buying slaves out of irrationality.

    It was profitable at a specific time, in a specific place, and for a specific group of people. The question was whether it would have remained so in perpetuity, or whether it would have naturally withered away on economic grounds without 600,000 people having to be slaughtered. The fact that the non-slave states were more economically prosperous than the slave-owning states even while slavery was the law of the land goes a long way towards obliterating your historical revisionism (or illiteracy, or whatever the fuck).

  • Robert||

    John has a very good point about skilled slave labor. You have to look at the hx of slavery not only around the world, but even in what became the US. In the northern colonies and even in the southern ones before cotton took off, they were commonly artisans, personal assistants, drivers, that sort of thing; for many slave owners during that era they were primarily a luxury good rather than money makers. In much of the rest of the world, slaves had been used in construction and fine carving. Of course for much of that time, division of labor and sophistication of capital had not progressed to a point where many of those people would've been better off free than as slaves; horizons were close.

  • Calidissident||

    The Soviet and Nazi war machines were nowhere near as effective as the US's. And the entire history of communism in the 20th century shows the inefficiency of slave labor. I agree that slavery was very profitable for a small group of wealthy slaveowners, traders, etc. but as a societal economic system, slavery is clearly inferior to free markets

  • sarcasmic||

    You know the south seceded because of a blatant violation of the 10th amendment, and not particularly slavery, right?

    Google up "declaration of secession" and you'll find that secession was indeed about slavery.

    The war, however, was initiated to preserve the union. Ending slavery was an afterthought.

  • anon||

    The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
  • anon||

    I can quote more; Mississippi appears more particularly concerned with slaveholding... I don't really have the time to read every individual state's declaration of secession right this moment.

  • sarcasmic||

    From what I read of the declarations, they all mentioned slavery. More specifically they mention slaves as property, property that they were unwilling to give up without a fight. So secession was indeed about slavery.

  • anon||

    From what I read of the declarations, they all mentioned slavery.

    Yes, they do; because the government unilaterally abolishing slavery exceeded the power granted to it by the constitution. Slavery wasn't the cause, but the government assuming a power it did not constitutionally have the right to exert.

    Slavery was *a* cause, but the primary cause was the blatant violation of the states' rights.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Bernoulli / Angle of Attack

    same thing.

  • Calidissident||

    What violation of states rights? Lincoln was not proposing a law to abolish slavery, nor was there enough support to pass such a law, and it probably would not have survived Supreme Court review. If you're referring to the fact that Lincoln and the Republicans wanted to stop the spread of slavery, there was nothing unconstitutional about the federal government making admission to the Union contingent on being a free state.

    "Slavery was *a* cause, but the primary cause was the blatant violation of the states' rights."

    Even if that were the cause, the "state right" at question was the right to have legal slavery. There's no way around that. And as John describes below, the South didn't give a shit about states' rights when they didn't benefit them.

  • John||

    The British never had slaves in Britian. And Britain only had a few Carribean Islands were slavery was used. A lot of Brits got rich off of the Sugar trade using slaves in places like Barbados and such. But the sugar trade got more competitive and less profitable in the late 18th Century. Meanwhile, religious authorities turned against slavery and launched a moral crusade against it. The moral persuasion combined with the decreasing economic importance of slavery to Britain caused Britain to go after the international slave trade.

  • Robert||

    An interesting thing I learned recently was that after the abolition of slavery there, they resorted to labor that was effectively just as captive as slaves had been. They brought in indentured servants from the hotter parts of India, who once they were settled in were too poor to move back out. Think company town on an island. It's not like anyone else was bidding on their labor.

  • John||

    Yes. That is why there are a lot of east Indians running around places like Trinidad.

  • pmains||

    The British never had slaves in Britain.

    Yes, they did. The Anglo-Saxon word for "slave" was "theow," and they had quite a few of those -- 10% of the population. The distinction between slaves and freemen did not disappear with the Norman Conquest, but theows ultimately became villeins, who weren't slaves in the sense of being chattel.

  • Almanian!||

    I've always maintained that there wouldn't have BEEN a constitution (not a ratified one) without the slavery provisiosn, but that the genius of it was containing the method to change this later through amendment. Which happened.

    Now, whether it was worth the Civil War and Lincoln's auhtoritarianism - it's at LEAST subject to argument. But it happened.

    But I can't criticize the lot 240-ish years ago from the route they took. They are, as we all are, a product of their time.

    The fact it's lasted this long is somewhat miraculous. Of course, it's been all downhill from the start - but - good effort! Lasted longer than many thought it would!

  • John||

    There would not have been a Constitution without the compromise on slavery. The South was not giving them up. Also, remember, the cotton gin had not yet been invented. I think most of them thought slavery would die on its own in a few years. You can't blame them for making the best of a bad situation.

    The South of 1789 was not the aggressive imperialistic and dangerous South of 1860. For that reason compromising with it to create a better union was totally understandable. The had no way of knowing the South was later going to go insane.

  • sarcasmic||

    The South of 1789 was not the aggressive imperialistic and dangerous South of 1860.

    Uh, what? Secession was an aggressive, imperial and dangerous act?

    I think you're confused. Waging war to "preserve the Union" was aggressive, imperial and dangerous.

  • anon||

    Uh, what? Secession was an aggressive, imperial and dangerous act?

    Sarc, you're obviously not looking at this from the fed. govt's point of view.

  • John||

    That is not all they did. The Fugitive Slave Act was aggressive and imperialistic. The invasion of Kansas was aggressive and imperialistic. The invasion of New Mexico was aggressive and imperialistic. Dred Scott, which mandated that southerns be allowed to take slaves and keep slaves in every state was aggressive and imperialistic. The South's plan was nothing less than universal slavery in all of the continent.

    They were aggressive and imperialistic assholes. Totally despicable

  • sarcasmic||

    Explain to me how the Fugitive Slave Act mattered once the South was no longer part of the Union.

    Explain to me how the South was going to achieve universal slavery once they were no longer part of the Union.

    Explain to me how Slave Power mattered once they were no longer part of the Union.

    You're working backwards in your reasoning. You start with the premise that slavery was ended after the war, and then you justify everything that led up to that end. That's the same type of reasoning that Tony and his ilk use.

    The simple fact of the matter is that slavery would indeed have ended because it would have been economic suicide for it to continue. Voluntary labor will out-compete slavery any time. If it had not ended then the South would have become a shithole like North Korea, but without China to prop it up.

    Slavery's days were numbered. The war was not necessary.

  • John||

    The FSA mattered because it showed that the South one had no respect for states rights and had no intention of every just letting slavery be a strictly southern thing. They wanted to expand slavery throughout the entire country. And when the North said no, that is when they left. And they would not have lived quietly had they been allowed to go. Southerners had already invaded border states and conducted kidnapping raids in the name of capturing escaped slaves. That would have continued. They would have also continued to spread west and used terrorism to enforce slavery in the west.

    You are projecting Sarc. I am just reading the history. The South's behavior before the war tells you everything you need to know about both their intentions and their future behavior had they been allowed to live as a nation. You are the one reasoning backwards. You see that they left the union. You think they had a right to do that. So you therefore reason that they must have had a good or even anything but a despicable cause. No, they didn't. They left for the worst reasons. Nothing they did had anything to do with freedom or the right to live in peace.

  • sarcasmic||

    So you therefore reason that they must have had a good or even anything but a despicable cause.

    No, John. That is absolutely false, and you know it. In fact I shall from now on consider you to be a despicable bastard for implying that I support slavery.

    Until I see an formal apology you can forever go fuck yourself.

  • John||

    No Sarc. I am not saying you support slavery. I am saying you are ignoring and denying the South's support of slavery. You keep trying to come up with less despicable reasons for the South's actions other than the fact they their entire cause was based on the preservation and expansion of slavery.

  • sarcasmic||

    I am saying you are ignoring and denying the South's support of slavery.

    No, Disingenuous Dipshit. Did you miss the part above where I told anon to google up the declarations of secession to read for himself that secession was about slavery?

    Go fuck yourself.

  • John||

    If the South left because of slavery, then why are you defending them? What is your point other than to just scream invectives?

  • sarcasmic||

    If the South left because of slavery, then why are you defending them?

    I'm not defending them. I'm saying that the hostilities by the Union had nothing to do with slavery. The South could have seceded because Yanks talk funny, and Lincoln still would have gone to war to "Preserve the Union."

  • Loki||

    they would not have lived quietly had they been allowed to go. Southerners had already invaded border states and conducted kidnapping raids in the name of capturing escaped slaves. That would have continued. They would have also continued to spread west and used terrorism to enforce slavery in the west.

    Which sounds like the union states would have been perfectly justified at that point in declaring war on the confederate states. Invading another country's sovereign territory is an act of war, afterall. As is pursuing an aggressive expansionist policy.

    FWIW, I don't disagree with your conter-factual. Had the North sat back and let the South leave*, eventually the South would have given the North a perfectly valid excuse to wage war on them. At which point, fuck them, they would have deserved everything they got.

    *I'm assuming that means leaving Ft. Sumpter immediately after seccession instead of attempting to hold on to it.

  • SomeGuy||

    been reading a long time and enjoy reading you guy's because of your actual valuable conventions so i had to make an account and point of a few things you guy's are missing.

    1. Plenty of things in todays world requires extensive manual labor. Not everything in farming is like corn. Many migrant workers from mexico and the like come to the US for work in fields. So Slavery would and is still economical just not in every field but could easily still be around.

    2. Chicago sweat shops are a prime example of where slavery would have been very profitable and it was arguable slavery but legal.

    3. Slavery would have been even economical today but it would have died down enough by the 1900s where it would have been outlawed due to it not being as necessary but still profitable.

    So slavery is still very profitable but not to the level of where whole states economy were living off of it. Also as slavery was less needed the trade of new slaves would have stopped and the current slaves would be sufficient plus their spawn would have been adequate to maintain lively slaves.

    There was something else but i am forgetting it :/

    None the less slavery were always and still are profitable but they would have not been as many fields of use for them as there were so they would have shrunk in importance where they could have been easily phased out completely.

  • SomeGuy||

    (This is what i forgot)
    Also the whole feed cloth and house garbage is dumb....the person you pay you have to do that too -_- The only real argument was if the overhead of forced labor would have been more expensive than hirering(sp?) someone. Along with the efficiency standpoint.

    Also i suck at English so get used to it.

  • Robert||

    They actually expected to institute their own empire over parts south, reintroducing slavery in Mexico, Cuba, etc., exporting people for money.

  • Robert||

    They specialized in two industries: warfare and people farming. They figured they could knock off some of these regimes south of them the way they'd knocked off the Indians, and then export their product of growing, and technology of organizing, slaves. They figured those countries had foolishly prematurely made slavery illegal, when it was obvious they just didn't know how to do it right. However, they would've been in the forefront of suppressing the export of slaves from Africa, since they wanted no competition for themselves.

  • creech||

    AS I said, those states that refused emancipation should have been allowed to depart. You are right that the founders of 1789 probably thought it would die out. Jefferson said, in 1814,
    "The hour of emancipation is advancing in the march of time. I have seen no proposition so expedient, on the whole, as that of emancipation to those born after a given day. The enterprise is for the young, for those who can follow it up and bear it through its consummation." The failure to resolve the "peculiar institution" had repercussions throughout the world for those looking to emulate the freedoms gained in the American Revolution. Lafayette to Jefferson in 1821: "Was it not for that deplorable circumstance of negro slavery...not a word could be objected, when we present American doctrines and constitutions as an example to old Europe."

  • anon||

    The idea of indentured servitude isn't inherently bad either. "Sure, I'll pay your way over here as long as your ass is mine for 10 years."

    I mean, how do you think we have a military today? It's not at all unlike indentured servitude. Which allows us to not have a draft.

  • John||

    It gave a lot of people a way out of a bad situation. Slavery was evil because it was race based, permanent, non-consensual and generational. Indentured servitude was none of those.

  • Libertymike||

    Slavery need not be raced base in order for it to be evil.

  • John||

    No it doesn't. But it being race based made it more evil. It was evil for a lot of reasons, being race based was just one of them.

  • Libertymike||

    Agreed.

  • Robert||

    No, I don't agree that its being race based makes it (slavery) more evil, unless what you mean is that the "peculiar institution" as it worked out in North America led to more evils as a way of justifying it.

  • Calidissident||

    "No, I don't agree that its being race based makes it (slavery) more evil, unless what you mean is that the "peculiar institution" as it worked out in North America led to more evils as a way of justifying it."

    I honestly can't figure out what this means. Can you clarify?

  • Robert||

    I wouldn't care what the race of the slaves was. In fact limiting the eligibles to one race, if anything, improves the situation by making it harder for someone to be a slave.

    Where the extra evil came in was by a very interesting sociologic process resulting from slavery's being restricted to non-whites in North America. What it resulted in (much more than from) was racism. People got an exaggerated idea of the difference between the races to justify the compromise that'd restricted slavery to non-whites.

  • Calidissident||

    "I wouldn't care what the race of the slaves was. In fact limiting the eligibles to one race, if anything, improves the situation by making it harder for someone to be a slave."

    Harder is true only if you care about the perspective of a person of the race that is not enslaved. For a person of the race being enslaved, it's exactly the opposite. There were a lot of free blacks who were kidnapped into slavery in the antebellum era. And the fact that slavery was race-based enabled that. When someone can look at you and know that there's over a 90% chance that you're a slave, it's pretty tough to escape. And as you admitted, the fact that it was race-based exasperated racism, resulting in even more negative social consequences. Slavery is wrong regardless of the form it takes, but that doesn't mean that all forms of slavery are equally bad.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Next up for discussion: Was the Holy Roman Empire truly not holy, not Roman, and not an empire, as Voltaire said, or was he just being, you know, an asshole?

  • John||

    Well if anyone would know the subject of being an asshole, it would be you Venneman.

  • Almanian!||

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - ALAN VANNEMAN! ALAN VANNEMAN!

  • ||

    Still alive, huh Vanneman?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Proof there is no god, or if there is one, he's a malevolent asshole.

  • Libertymike||

    Holy Roman Empire for $200?

  • anon||

    Wow, I haven't seen that name in a while.

  • Tak Kak||

    A good rule of thumb: Jeffrey Rogers Hummel is usually correct.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Placed at the beginning of a myriad of reasons for separation from Great Britain was the famous passage about self-evident truths such as "that all men are created equal" and that their Creator endowed them with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.""

    Christfag! Sky-Daddy!

    (Lights the Sevo signal)

  • anon||

    One can believe their creator(s) were their parents.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    It's "Creator," singular and capitalized.

  • anon||

    Ok, my mom created me.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "*their* Creator endowed *them*"

    So who's "them"?

  • Juice||

    Or, your "creator" can simply be Nature.

  • SomeGuy||

    yea but i came out of a tube -_- So who created me?

  • bassjoe||

    If it wasn't for the Constitution, the biggest stain on America's so-called liberty would have probably lasted much longer: slavery. The Constitution gave the central government the power to fight secession.

    We could argue all decade long about whether the Civil War was about slavery or something else (I will provide that it was a complex dispute centuries in the making, echoes of which are still being debated today), but the Articles would not have been able to provide a sufficient centralized government framework to defeat the secessionists and end slavery.

  • Robert||

    No, that's one thing it didn't do: provide the power to fight secession.

  • Tak Kak||

    Are you sure about that?

    The Constitution seems to be ambiguous at best about secession whereas the AoC mention the "perpetual" union 5 times.

    Unless you are speaking purely in terms of Might.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's pretty hard to believe that the Founders thought that the Constitution would prevent secession, just a decade or so after they quite eloquently stated that secession was a natural right.

  • Libertymike||

    The Lincoln cult has a tough time with that one.

  • John||

    The Confederate cult has a real hard time with the problem of the South taking its slaves by force with them. The only way the South's secession is legal would be for it to have agreed to let every slave leave and go to the North if they liked.

    But, the North never made that argument. So what? It doesn't make it less valid or the South's leaving the union and effectively kidnapping its slaves any more legal.

  • Tak Kak||

    Slavery was illegal? Maybe if you're Spooner.

  • John||

    Slaves were Americans. And the South could leave, but that doesn't mean they could close their borders and prevent those who wanted to stay in the US from doing so. Yet, slaves didn't get t hat option.

    To say that the South's secession was legal, you have to say that slaves were not Americans. And people who defend secession wonder why they get called racists.

  • Tak Kak||

    Okay, the slaves weren't Americans. That wasn't particularly difficult.

  • Tak Kak||

    Are these your own moral rules here, or are you actually coming from a constitutional/legal stand point?

  • John||

    From a legal standpoint. The constitution guarantees every state a democratic government. Keeping a third of your population in bondage is not democratic.

    And if you think slaves were not Americans, you are racist and deserve to be called such. If California wanted to leave the union today but in doing so said that 1/3rd of its population where prohibited from leaving and returning to t he US, you don't think that fact would have a bearing on both the legality and morality of their secession? You think that states own their citizens and have the right to leave the union and force all of their citizens to remain where they are? Where does that power come from?

  • Tak Kak||

    So... no.

    You're just making things up.

    The power for a state to leave the union comes from the Constitution.

    As always, there are requirements to be a right-enabled American. Call me an "agist" too. Just because you don't agree with the specifics of the time doesn't make them illegal. Immoral? Sure, probably.

  • Calidissident||

    Could the North not have passed a law (like the 14th Amendment) stating that anyone born in the United States was an American citizen? And since the slaves had been born in the United States, would your objection not be moot at that point?

  • Tak Kak||

    Calidissident,

    Is your question directed at me? I really can't tell at this point.

    Thanks

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah. The Northern Congress could have passed such a law, which would have made the slaves American citizens. Would John not have a point then? (Ignoring the fact that the North's motivation for fighting the war was simply the fact that the South seceded, not why they did)

  • Tak Kak||

    Well, no. Obviously not, since they didn't.

    However - moving to the realm of hypotheticals - Only the slaves in the Union slave states would have been freed.

    Can the U.S. declares all, say... Canadians to be Americans unilaterally?

  • ||

    The constitution guarantees every state a democratic republican form of government.

    FTFY. You ever actually read the document?

  • Loki||

    To say that the South's secession was legal, you have to say that slaves were not Americans.

    Technically, at the time, they were considered property. I'm not defending that line of thinking, it should go without saying that chattel slavery is/ was a disgusting practice, but that's how people thought of them back then.

  • Tak Kak||

    Racist!

  • SomeGuy||

    slavery being legal is irrelevant. If you adhere to the Constitution and the theory of natural rights than slavery was purely wrong. That is saying natural rights is a real thing. If you ask people of today's world there is no such thing and it is a dog eat dog world or whatever the saying is.

  • John||

    Even if the South had a right to leave, they didn't have the right to take their slaves forcibly with them. I don't see a case for how their secession is legal.

    I really don't understand why so many Libertarians want to die on this hill. If anything Libertarians should hate the South for discrediting the idea of secession by attempting a blatantly illegal and immoral one. Instead, they hate Lincoln and continually make excuses for the South.

  • Drake||

    I'm with you. I look at the Civil War as nothing but a tragedy now. Both sides got together and ruined the country.

  • John||

    But they didn't ruin the country. They made it better. It is a hell of a lot better country without slavery. And the government in 1866 was not the government of today. I would take that government in a heart beat. The federal government was very small after the civil war.

    One of the greater crimes against the truth the confederate lovers commit is to impute the crimes of Roosevelt and the Wilson and the Progs to Lincoln. The things Libertarians dislike did not start with Lincoln. But the Confederate lovers continually pretend they did.

  • Libertymike||

    John, that one condemns Lincoln does not thereby mean that one loves the confederacy.

  • John||

    But what do you hate Lincoln for? Fighting the war? The federal government that emerged from the civil war was far preferable to what we have today. The real bitch is with the two Roosevelts and Wilson, not Lincoln.

  • Libertymike||

    I hate the ante-bellum South for the following reasons:

    (1) De jure slavery.

    (2) Gun control measures.

    (3) The harassment of abolitionists, preachers and others who spoke out against slavery. The harassment consisted of jailing, fining, whipping and killing.

    (4) Pushing for the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act.

    (5) Using the Fugitive Slave Act.

    (6) Harassing the organizers and supporters of the underground railroad.

    John, I enumerated some things that were just bloody awful about the ante-bellum south. In many a prior thread, I have listed why I loathe Lincoln. Of course, not so much as to drive 400 miles, each way, to splash some paint on his statue.

  • ||

    But what do you hate Lincoln for? Fighting the war?

    Yeah. Suspending inconvenient constitutional rights while it was being fought as well. 600,000 lives and the cult of the executive was a pretty fucking steep price to pay for keeping the south annexed to a union of which it wanted no part. Something tells me if the victors in the Civil War were reversed, you probably wouldn't have quite the Lincoln woody that you presently do.

    Oh, also, if it wasn't for the precedents set under Lincoln, the abuses under Wilson and Roosevelt wouldn't have been possible. But, uh, yeah. That they shit on the constitution while playing follow-the-leader to Good Saint Lincoln is like, totally bad. Yep.

  • RoninX||

    A steep price, yes, but I'm guessing that most of the slaves felt it was worth it.

  • ||

    The things Libertarians dislike did not start with Lincoln.

    In the context of American history, some of them did. Most of the things libertarians dislike started with Ug the neanderthal. Your arms must be exhausted from beating that strawman so fucking hard.

  • SomeGuy||

    i have to disagree with you on that one john. Lincoln was the founder of abusive executive orders....Don't get me wrong i think what Lincoln did was an necessary evil but it was the start of the downfall.

    The precedent he set for what the executive branch could do is terrifying. Look at what is going on now? The two branches are nearly powerless to stop the executive branch. Obama was just saying the judges have no authorities on how the Executive branch acts when it comes to spying -_-

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not talking about the Civil War or slavery. Just whether the Constitution prevented secession. I think it's quite a stretch to say it did.

  • Loki||

    Unless you are speaking purely in terms of Might.

    Might makes right, isn't that what the constiution says? Right after "Fuck you, that's why"?

  • Tak Kak||

    The Constitution strengthened the Federal government and military, which was used to hammer the Confederacy.

    Might.

  • Robert||

    But it strengthened the southern military as well, so that's a wash.

  • Tak Kak||

    Stronger than it would have been sure, on par with the Union, not at all.

  • RoninX||

    When you write legal slavery into the Constitution, you've pretty much signed up for the Might Makes Right camp.

    Of course, that set things on an inevitable collision course with the All Men Are Created Equal camp.

  • Loki||

    The Constitution gave the central government the power to fight secession.

    *Citation needed* Point to the specific article and section of the constitution that grants the federal government this specific enumerated power.

    I will provide that it was a complex dispute centuries in the making, echoes of which are still being debated today

    At the time of the Civil War the country was less than 100 years old, so it wasn't a dispute "centuries" in the making. Perhaps you meant decades.

  • bassjoe||

    Seriously, you need a citation? Read the thing, I hear it's available on the Internet even. The Constitution has a lot the AoC didn't have - the power to tax independently of the states, the power to commission armies and navies without the states, naming the Prez C-in-C, etc.

  • SomeGuy||

    none of those allow it to top secession or make it no longer a natural right of the states....

  • Tony||

    Libertarians celebrating the constitution is nonsensical in one important way: the primary reason it exists was to create a big government as a response to the failure of the prior, smaller one.

  • ||

    You truly are a king among retards.

  • ||

    He's right! George Washington died on the cross so we could have eternal Medicare. Forever and ever, amen.

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