Federalist No. 13 – Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government, for the Independent Journal (Hamilton)

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Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Federalist 13: Why Union?

Always, Americans face two questions: the question of regime; the question of the modern state.

By “regime” I mean three things: who rules; by what forms or institutions the rulers rule; and what way of life rulers and ruled will lead.  These three dimensions of the regime intertwine.  If, for example, a tyrant rules, he will require such institutions as a large standing army controlled exclusively by himself for internal policing as well as for conquest, a judiciary dependent on his will alone, and a legislature without independent powers.  If a tyrant rules, the way of life will encourage a moral atmosphere of mutual distrust and self-protective secrecy among neighbors, habits of fear punctuated by moments of terror.

If the people rule, the same thing might happen.  The popular majority might tyrannize as well as—maybe worse than—a `majority of one.’  Hence republicanism or representative government, a republic of extensive territory and population wherein no one faction may obtain a ruling majority.

The first fourteen numbers of The Federalist address the crucial question of regime—whether a people can truly govern themselves non-tyrannically, by reflection and choice, not accident and force. But they equally address the question of statism.

Modern political philosophers—in England, such men as Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes—sharply criticized feudalism.  A feudal society structures itself politically rather like a cinnamon roll: ruling authority organizes itself into swirls and morsels—an aristocrat here, a city there, with a king mixed in and a network of churches and common law courts throughout, each with more or less independent sources of power, sometimes overlapping one another but none simply superior to the others.

The statists did away with this.  Statesmen organize states along the lines of a wagon wheel, with a central hub of authority and spokes radiating out to the border.  Along these institutional spokes reside administrators or bureaucrats, beholden to the center for their appointments and salaries, exerting control over the population, now reconceived as the nation organized into the nation-state. From the center of the state commands and force flow out; to the center, recruits and revenues flow in, far more efficiently than under the feudal order.  Wherever a state appeared, neighboring political communities more or less needed to imitate it, lest the wheel roll over them.

For Bacon and Hobbes and their royal sponsors, the best regime for the modern state was monarchy, giving unity of command to the powerful state.  Having felt the pincers of monarchic statism, the Founders disagreed, with muskets.

But the defense of the natural rights enunciated in the Declaration of Independence via institutions of political liberty required the strength and unity that only a modern state could provide.  Only a state could muster the economic and military strength to defend itself against the surrounding European empires, with their contempt for republicanism.

Publius therefore puts the matter of federal union front and center in his introductory essays.   The Founders propose to solve the problem of republican self-government in a dangerous world of centralized, monarchist, imperial states by gathering military powers in a national government under popular control, with carefully enumerated, balanced, separated powers while leaving most domestic authority firmly in the hands of the governments of the several smaller states, where citizens can more readily govern themselves—states equally represented in one house of the national legislature.

In the thirteenth Federalist, Publius warns against disunion by appealing to Americans’ sense of economy.  Were we to divide into separate confederacies, the two or three new governments would nonetheless rule extensive territories, larger than those of the British Isles.  Instead of one federal government we would have at least two, with unnecessary duplication of ruling institutions and commensurately heavier expenses per capita.  If jealousies arose between these confederacies, commercial tariffs and larger militaries would further degrade prosperity.  North America would look more and more like the Europe from which Americans had declared their independence.  To those who look askance at a national government, Publius replies, one such thing is better than two or three.  To undertake to found thirteen such sovereignties would involve Americans in “a project too extravagant and too replete with danger to have many advocates.”

But can one government—even a carefully limited government—truly govern one such large territory?  Publius answers this question in his fourteenth essay, concluding his introduction to the new Constitution.

Will Morrisey holds the William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College.  His most recent books are Self-Government, The American Theme: Presidents of the Founding and Civil War, The Dilemma of Progressivism: How Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson Reshaped the American Regime of Self-Government, and Regime Change: What It Is, Why It Matters.

31 Responses to “May 142010 – Federalist No13 – Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government, for the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Dr. Will Morrisey, William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College”

  1. Ron Meier says:

    Thanks for such an interesting discussion of the underlying reasoning to what our founders were proposing, Dr. Morrisey. You’ve put it in a way that seems so simple, yet we and our representatives seem to prefer to make it complex. Who rules, by what form, and leading to what way of life; if only we could focus on that, instead of arguing about some of the minutia we hear every day in the media, perhaps our conclusions on the issues would become more clear, more quickly.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    The more I read, the more I’m struck with the truism that “What goes around comes around”. We are again arguing the size and structure of the best form of governance. The irony of the situation is that ‘strict constructionists’ in the late 1700′s were called Anti-Federalists and now they’re called Constitutionalists.

  3. Will Morrisey says:

    Thank you, sir. I deserve no credit, really. I’m only repeating what I learned from Aristotle’s “Politics” about forty years ago in Harry Clor’s class at Kenyon College, supplemented by what the late Robert Horwitz taught in his class on Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.

  4. Shannon Castleman says:

    Dr. Morrisey, you said, “The Founders propose to solve the problem of republican self-government in a dangerous world of centralized, monarchist, imperial states by gathering military powers in a national government under popular control, with carefully enumerated, balanced, separated powers while leaving most domestic authority firmly in the hands of the governments of the several smaller states, where citizens can more readily govern themselves—..”

    Thanks for writing it like that. It makes it clear in my mind how the Founders thought, as well as their intentions for the new government.

    The notion that the federal government is basically responsible for protecxting the US while leaving the states to basically handle domestic idea—-I guess the 10th Amendment may apply here?

    Thanks!! Good thought on your part.

  5. Marc W. Stauffer says:

    Incredible explanation Doctor! Thank you for the insight. I think it was prudent of Publis to remind his fellow Americans what is was they were separated from as when a little time passes we tend to forget. The continued use of economic consequences to disunion is, as always the best “attention getter”. Economic, rather than moral consequences to actions, have, unfortunately, always received the quickest attentions and reactions from the populous. Explaining the economic disadvantages of disunion most likely stirred the senses of the people to see the folly of disunion…much like people today. We tend to look at our government in terms of economic remedies/gain and less at its moral implications. According to statistics we choose our elected officials most commonly by their economic views and less on their moral character/stances…something I believe that is causing a lot of the trouble we are experiencing today.

  6. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Now that we have learned through the first 14 Federalist Papers how our Founders envisioned the benefits of a Union of States formed into one national government with limited enumerated powers vested in the Federal Government and the powers not granted to the Federal System to remain with the People and the States. We now see how that system has been perverted and usurped by the Federal System in it’s grasp for uncontrolled power over the States and the People the question is how do we get back to the original intent of the Founders without the kind of action they envisioned would occur if there were no unified Federal Government.

  7. Will Morrisey says:

    Mr. Stauffer, I think that you make a good point about the contemporary attempt to emphasize economics at the expense of moral character. The Founders understood the relation between morality and economics in a much more careful way than we do. Throughout The Federalist Publius takes care to link morality with self-interest, but without reducing morality TO self-interest. The best example of this may be seen not in The Federalist but in George Washington’s Farewell Address, which is also a defense of federal union.
    For example, here in #13 Publius defends union on economic grounds; however, as previous papers have already made clear, the purpose of union is American prosperity in the comprehensive sense–ultimately, the defense of activities that conduce to human flourishing in a regime that defends the natural rights of its citizens. The later habit of looking to our government for economic remedies, which you remark, tends toward passivity and attitudes of dependence, not self-government.

  8. Maggie says:

    @ chuck…..You asked the question, “how do we get back to the original intent of the Founders without the kind of action they envisioned would occur if there were no unified Federal Government?” I do believe there are ways….the question is will people be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get us back to our Founders’ original intent? Many of us HERE are, I am quite certain…..but most of us have already made many sacrifices trying to survive the government largess. Those that still NEED to make the sacrifices are least likely to be willing to make ANY.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful essay Dr. Morrisey and for your willingness to come back and give further insight throughout the day.

  9. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Maggie you have made my point, the fact that so many of our citizens today have “no” investment in our government today. What i mean by that is they pay nothing or very little for the cost of the government we have that they do not see any need to change it. Those who are willing will do those who are unwilling will not and i am afraid that we have way too many who are unwilling today.

  10. Dave says:

    Thank you Professor Morrisey for sharing your thoughts on Federalist No13 and jump-starting my brain this morning. Hamilton seemed to know which buttons to push to get the citizens of New York to go along with the plan of union–their security and their pocket-book. Could it be the case that Hamilton was right in November of 1787, but might be wrong in the long run? Or to put it another way, is there a limit to the size of a republic such as ours; and are their certain characteristics of the governed which will either foster or inhibit the expansion–did he really think that virtue would remain the defining characteristic of the populace as the “celebrated Montesquieu” said it must? I agree with the Federalists that the circumstances at the time pointed towards union as the only means of survival. The Articles of Confederation were deficient in a number of respects and enemies were ravaging America’s trade on the high seas.

    Based on experience, which Hamilton will call “that best oracle of wisdom” (No. 15) and Madison will call “the oracle of truth” (No. 20), can we not infer that any particular structure made by man, according to any applicable natural laws, will have a necessary limit? Can the integrity and composition of the parts be maintained to continue to support the whole?–Will the wheel simply collapse at some point? Hamilton’s focus was mainly external; and rightly so. But even Madison (No. 10 & 51) didn’t foresee any problems (as long as virtue was predominant.) He thought that an extended republic, composed of many different interests and where the combining of interests was difficult, would be a sufficient guard of the people’s liberty.

    As our attitude and outlook become more and more national as opposed to federal, and as more and more power, control, and money coalesce in Washington D. C., I see more and more waste, fraud, and oppression. We may not have a national plebiscite but through modern media a national consensus is “reached” to determine national policies on any number of topics–healthcare, immigration, energy use. Modern communication seems to vitiate Madison’s argument for extended republics. Today, small, vocal, well-placed factions can combine quite easily and gain power. There does seem to be a tendency for political power to follow some sort exponential growth curve (maybe it’s “Power tends to coalesce, and absolute power coalesces absolutely.) Is there a vicious cycle with the increasing public sector depending on a decreasing private sector?

    For external concerns, a centralized government is probably the answer. But for local, private concerns, local government is best. The best government is that government which governs closest to the people. As John Adams wrote to Jefferson, “Human nature, know thyself.” A republic composed of citizens lacking virtue is not long for this world.

  11. Marc W. Stauffer says:

    Mr. Morrisey;
    I agree with your thought, “Throughout The Federalist Publius takes care to link morality with self-interest, but without reducing morality TO self-interest.”
    Exclusive self interest is the blinded path to a Unions destruction. Mutual interest must be taught in the formative years of life lest self interest take firm root.
    Many generations have been taught economic based history rather than history with its eye on the motives and morality and as such we have lost touch with the original intents of our Founders or great leaders. President Woodrow Wilson said; “A Nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we don’t know where we have come from, or what we have been about”.
    Many history books, my High School history text (1977) included, are going as far as to expunge any morality or mutual interest from their text. This, unfortunately, leads our youthful generations to the self-serve trough without care as to how personal success is accomplished, only looking at the economic gains/losses of a situation. It also leads to an unhealthy reliance on “nanny state” governance to control those economic factors. Things which we are now seeing blossom forth.

  12. Shannon Castleman says:

    Chuck and Maggie, I do not know either. But I think the best vehicle for getting back to the intent of our Founders would be to have a few Governors (look at Chris Christie of NJ, maybe Rick Perry of TX, maybe Jan Brewer of AZ) stand together and say “NO MORE MANDATES.”

    If we could find just 4-5 men and women Governors of integrity who will stand up to the federal government-even if that meant a stand off with federal police authorities- and proclaim the 10th Amendment alive again, then PUR movement will gain some traction. It will gain credibility.

    Remember the movie “Braveheart” when William Wallace pursuaded Bruce the Earl to lead his people? I am paraphrasing but he says something like, “People don’t follow titles, they follow leadership. They will follow you if you will just lead them. I see it in you.”

    That is what need today, because no one is going to take “normal” citizens like us seriously. We need people with some credibility in the government sector-Governors. 90% of Congress can’t provide that leadership, but I believe 4-5 Governors could start a snowball, mixed with the Tea Party movement.

    Any thoughts?

  13. Mrs. Stone says:

    It’s interesting to see how knowledgeable our founders are about the world around them. Although people like Newt Gingrich speak in ways that convince me that they have an informed historical perspective, it is hard to see that in a lot of our countries leaders.

    Hamilton gives a very interesting insight into why the nations of Europe were constantly fighting one another and what we should do to avoid it. Without minimizing our nation’s civil war it is telling that the actual conflicts on our own nation’s soil have been limited over the year that our nation has been in existence and that proves that Hamilton really understood the importance of us having one nation here in America instead of 3 or 4.

  14. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Shannon you are right but we must motivate the people to stand with those Governors and let them know that we will be there to support their efforts. That is why it is so important to let Arizona know that we support their efforts in the immigration fight. It is not about profiling or any thing else but protecting the citizens where the Federal Government has refused to do so. If “We” The People let the Federal Government run over Arizona then what is left for the rest of us but the same.

  15. Ron Meier says:

    Good point Shannon. It doesn’t take a majority of Governors to make something happen; it takes just a few strong willed Governors willing to stand up and say no. The Governors have failed, over many decades, to stand up to the Congress and say no to mandates that come with almost any money the feds distribute, for example, for highway construction, education, etc. As originally constructed, as I read these papers, the States made sure the Constitution protected their rights as States. Somewhere along the line, they seem to have allowed the federal government to effectively override their own rights on the larger local issues, such as education. We’re fortunate to have some strong leaders at schools like Hillsdale College say no to federal money so they were not forced to do things they felt were contrary to their own values. If only we can get some of our Governors to do the same thing. The ones you’ve named are a great start; let’s hope more come along with them, especially after the November elections, when we are more likely to have change at the State houses.

  16. Jeff Hill says:

    Susan, you have made clear some feeling I have had while reading along, that the Anti-Federalists often had arguments equally as compelling as the Federalists. And issues that dominated the Constitutional Convention are still, or once again, being debated today.

  17. Will Morrisey says:

    Dave, thanks for that excellent post. My own view is that it’s impossible to posit a natural limit to a commercial republic, but in practical terms every such republic will find such a limit, depending upon its neighbors. The oceans pretty much set such a limit, east and west, with the eventual exception of Hawaii and other smaller holdings in the Pacific. No sensible person supposed that we would actually integrate the Philippines permanently into the United States, for example. British Canada set such a limit on the United States to the north. Mexico turned out to be the complicated case; we solved the problem for more than a century by seizing its underpopulated, northern sections and effecting a regime change in the capital.
    Another way of putting it is to say that an extended, commercial republic must eventually find some limit; the question will then be whether it can secure its borders militarily but in the final analysis politically. It can do so politically if the neighboring regimes are also commercial republics. It helps if they are also weaker.
    In my opinion, the statism that you and I worry about derives not from the size of the territory but from the change in the regime effected by the Progressives in the last century. The Progressives managed to legitimate a much more extensive, bureaucratic state than anything seen here before, taking their cues from German political thought and practice. Germany had unified the 37 or so German states under the Kaiser; Bismarck organized a substantial welfare state along with a formidable army. Many of the American intellectuals who founded `political science’ as an academic discipline in the 1880s (the young Woodrow Wilson among them) studied in Germany, so they picked these ideas up right at the source.

  18. What a great dialogue today. I thank all of you for joining and I also thank Dr. Will Morrisey for his wonderful interpretation of today’s paper and The Federalist in general. It was super grand that Dr. Morrisey revisited our blog throughout the day! Thank you, Dr. Morrisey!

    I feel lucky to be having this national conversational/blog regarding something as important as the founding framework of our country. Understanding this foundation will be the basis for maintaining our great republic. By great, I don’t simply mean powerful or rich, but I mean virtuous and free – free to think, free to live, free to express, free to fail, free to succeed, free to speak, free to worship.

    There truly is a “180” movement in our country. Recently, a candidate was ousted and it was revealed by the constituents that it wasn’t because of the usual concerns such as: the economy or terrorism. It was because he didn’t heed the United States Constitution. Posing these questions, pondering these truths may lead our present and future congressmen and women to pause, pause upon the principles of our country and hence reflect principled behavior. We shall insist upon it as the future of our country depends upon it.

    Through this process, our “90 in 90,” I am gleaning a deeper understanding of my, until recently mostly intuitive and instinctive, aversion to big government.

    Publius argues forthrightly about the benefits of a strong union. This makes perfect sense as they lay out their arguments, most compellingly by their comparisons to Europe. The United States could have easily succumbed to a similar scenario, mirroring the divided countries of Europe. Our founding father’s persuasive passions to unite the colonies were truly Providential.

    Yet, never do I interpret the United States Constitution, or the Federalist Papers, with the objective of obtaining a strong, overbearing Federal government. They wanted focus, fortitude and fluidity – yet never to be a tourniquet impeding the states’ rights – the states’ rights to diversify in spirit, make decisions best representing their local domain and maintaining the wherewithal to do so.

    The question thus begs: how do we cut the line of dependency, dependency on federal bait and bargain?

    Like a fish caught on the bait, we are flapping in the wind. If only, “catch and release” were an option perhaps then we could swim in the big pong together yet maintain our different stripes.

    God Bless,

    Janine Turner

    May 142010

  19. Andy Sparks says:

    Im going to say something controversial in answer to the implied question of Ron’s statement “Somewhere along the line, they seem to have allowed the federal government to effectively override their own rights”: The the issue is slavery. If slavery had not been defended to the point of secession by the Confederate states, I don’t believe we would now have as bloated and powerful a federal government as we have today.

    While the Federalist papers do not touch on the subject of slavery, it is the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room throughout U.S. history up until 1861 when shots were fired and the union was torn asunder. Without that peculiar institution, it is my belief that we would have a more balanced power between the federal government and the state governments. Without the Civil War, there would be no 14th ammendment which once and for all declared the federal government as supreme.

    A lot of Lost Causers will scream “Hallelujah”, but I approach the subject from a different viewpoint. Unlike their belief that Abe Lincoln was a tyrant; I say that the southern states that promoted and defended their institution to the tune of 600,000 dead were more to blame for the current situation of states playing second fiddle to the central government. How we can transfer back the power of the federal government back to the states, I don’t know; but I do know how we got here, and it started when the founding fathers refused to deal with the issue of slavery that quite possibly would have prevented the union from forming in the first place.

  20. SUPER stuff !I think the first thing I want to say is about the “disunion” that pleges us today. We are divided and it seems that Obama is not given to putting things back together,but into factions serving what he believes will promote his idology. He is displaying an arrogance a times which concerns me a lot. I wonder if he realizes that a man is diminished to the degree that he indulges his arrogance?AZ is a perfect example of this, he makes a joke about the PEOPLE of that state while his failure to deal with immigration while a 900 lb gorillia standing at his shoulder as his jokes cleverly distort .His Attorney General threatens to sue AZ,but never read the bill he is objecting to. Obama addresses a graduation class and implies that too much tech, may be harmful??????What on earth????Is he afraid of too much information that may encourage deeper thought about matters facing us today????I think most people are feeling concerned about the deficite,and the spending at the hands this Administration ,and there seems to be no end to the billions and now trillions that are now weighing us down, and making us vunerable .
    We have much to do and I suppose the first thing is to engage in places like this. Thank you so much for all your hard work and creating this site. November may serve as a bell weather and surly information will underpin our sucess.
    I think our founders would be going cross eyed if they were to see things today.Their beautiful carfully constructed thoughts/principles were a gift to the ages and I do hope we can blow off the dust of the times,we allowed to settle in on them and revitalize them.

  21. Maggie says:

    Shannon you are so right and I am glad to see that a few Governors are starting to take a stand. Even Arnold S. is talking about cutting entitlements in Calif. It remains to be seen if he is all talk and no action or if he’ll actually do what needs to be done. If he actually goes through with it, it will be interesting to see how many other states follow suit.

  22. Roger Jett says:

    Shannon Castleman, I especially enjoyed your earlier comments on what it will take to get us turned back toward what the Founders intended. I’d like to point out though that before Robert the Bruce became “the lion in the north”, it was the acts, deeds and exploits of the “normal citizen” William Wallace that united the diverse clans and rallied them to resist tyranny. Before Stirling Bridge and Falkirk and long before Bannockburn there were the skirmishes and battles of Lanark ,Loudoun Hill, Ayr, Scone, Aberdeen and Perth. Before the nobles resolved that they would lead the fight, the common people determined and declared that they would be free and be independent. It was a long road, not a short one. I’m reminded of what Paul S. Gillespie said a few days ago, in reference to Federalist No. 11, “We are quickly loosing our ability to remain free and independent, because unlike Hamilton who obviously took the long view, we have concerned ourselves with the expediency of the moment and see only the quick fix from the short view”.

  23. Susan Craig says:

    Andy, in the battle to return to the founding principles you are half way there. There is a principle that says in order to fix a problem one first has to correctly identify it and how it came to be. It is only then that effective strategies can be formulated.

  24. Dale Pettit says:

    We are all on this boat together and just maybe this study is the flick of the wrist that changes our direction. We are seeing signs that a new atmosphere of attitude is rising. The recent ousting of incumbents or life long politicians is a sign. I pray that our simple response to a long over ignored actions of our politicians is not too late.

    The national debt, promises of future entitlements, and actions to devalue our currency to zero is bankrupting our nation and it’s citizens. Our position and strength to be a major world power has tanked significantly because over the last 100 years our selected leaders forgot to defend our constitution. Or……our citizens did not know enough to be more selective. They did not know what they had or did not know that we have to take an active part in our government actions.

    Yes we have to have leadership because many will follow. Getting traction and attention for these ideas is a real challenge.

    Thanks to all of you for this study.

  25. Dave says:

    Roger, I liked what you seemed to suggest about the common people, the individual, being a key to solving our current crisis of liberty. Many Americans (myself included) have not been paying attention as a century-long, ever-so-subtle incremental drift away from our founding principles has put our liberty in some jeopardy. Dr. Morrisey mentioned the Progressives and how they view the governing of our country. In my limited reading of the Progressives (mostly selections from American Progressivism by another Hillsdale educator, Ronald J. Pestritto), they seem to have a firm belief in the perfectibility of man brought about by just the right social and political control. And there are academic, legal, political, and artistic elites who have the “wisdom” and good intentions to “improve” upon our founding principles so that we can attain the perfection they so ardently desire for us.

    I know the modern elites are really, really smart and everything, but I think I’ll stick with the Founders. Informed not only by their religious sentiments, but also by their study of human history and man’s various attempts to form civil societies; they accepted man as an imperfect being, and the structure of any suitable government would take into account man as he truly is not as he might be imagined in some utopian, fantasy world. How smart were the Founders? I recently heard a scholar say that President Kennedy’s quip about Jefferson dining alone was probably literally true–”I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” (Remarks at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere. 4/29/62)

    The increasing centralization of power and tax dollars in Washington would horrify the Founders. They did not fight a revolution against the centralized power of the King and Parliament only to have it brought 4000 miles here to Washington to exercise tyrannical power over the individual American. Our founding document the Declaration of Independence tells us where the Founders put their political faith and trust, and it wasn’t in the State. It was in the certain unalienable rights of the individual. We possess those rights independent of any government. We establish government to secure our rights. Ours is a protector government not a provider government.

    We have lost that necessary faith in the enlightened self-determination of the autonomous individual exerting his free will in a material world governed by natural laws. If Ludwig von Mises is right that “government is essentially the negation of liberty,” individuals who innately yearn to be free, will always come to be frustrated by looking to a bigger and bigger government to make their life choices for them. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is free will; without it life would cease to have any meaning.

  26. Paul S. Gillespie says:

    Thanks for quoting me Roger. Its nice to be remembered. I was otherwise occupied yesterday, but am catching up this morning. Great comments by everyone following a thoughtful essay by Dr. Will Morrisey. I do however take great exception to Andy Spark’s idea that slavery was the chief cause of the War for Southern Independence. (Civil War is used incorrectly in this type of conflict)
    States Rights, much a concern today, was the key issue to the South. On this subject, the South was entirely right as we see the present subjugation of the States to the actions of an all powerful federal government. The main issue to the North was not slavery but revenue. Over 60% of Federal income, distributed unevenly to Northern States came from Southern States. Most Northerners had no strong feelings about Southern succession until the Northern newspapers and banks started pointing out the need of the North for the continued wealth of the South. (Before the war, Mississippi was actually the richest State in the Union) When asked why he was against the South leaving the Union, Abe Lincoln replied: “Where would we get our income?”
    It was only when the “greenbacks”,through rapid inflation from printed money had caused more financial problems than lost revenue did the North need another reason the shore up faltering support for conquering the South.
    A quick look at the laws most of the Northern States restricting the rights, freedoms and movements of the non slave black population, makes it very evident that no Northern State was willing to start a war with the South to free a black person. But since the Union was already knee deep in blood and debt…why the hell not try to put a moral face on their actions.
    I agree that the resulting 14th Amendment has its flaws and should be repealed, but lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater. It does restrict the States from passing laws that infringe on our Bill of Rights.

  27. Andy Sparks says:

    If you don’t think slavery was a chief cause of the Civil War, then you look at history with a jaundiced eye. True, economics was an underlying cause of conflict, but you have to look deeper than the surface; something lost causers and slave state sympathizers refuse to do.

    I don’t disagree that the northern states are without culpability in the livelihood of the peculiar institution, but to point to the non-slave holding states as the ignoble precipitators of the war is disingenuous. If the cotton-growing states had been willing to confine their slave holding status to those within which they currently existed, there might not have been an issue. Likewise, and more to my point, if the institution had been irradicated at the outset of the Constitution, then the likelihood exists that a war would have been avoided entirely.

    Unfortunately, with help from the 3/5′s clause, the Southern states dominated the presidency, Congress, and even the Judiciary (Andrew Jackson alone appointed 7 of 9 supreme court justices including Chief Justice Roger B. Taney). Only when immigration and westward expansion from 1815 onwards precipitated a transition of power from congress to the northern states did congressmen like Jefferson Davis worry that the government would shift power towards the rapidly industrializing north.

    It wasn’t northern financial improprieties that led to a war; it was the south trying to hold on to its power based on an already antedated institution that led to war. Try as you might to blame something other than slavery on the war, if you know your history and the underlying causes to straw man excuses like the tariff and states’ right, then you know that slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War.

  28. Kay Tournay says:

    How fortunate you were to have Harry Clor for a teacher – would that all our kids in government schools could, too. That’s not possible, so, we all must become Harry Clors (read, read, read) and find opportunities to re-educate America’s children on the exceptionalism of America!

  29. Christopher says:

    It is truly exciting to see how interested people like Hamilton were in promoting industry and business. When I look at essay #14 I see a much more robust concept — government should facilitate commerce not restrict it. The limited powers of the federal government look much more logical when I see that encouraging commerce through the post office, highways and interstate trade were explicit powers. I guess I’m now wondering what happened that caused us to get off track today? It often seems that rather than facilitating commerce, many in government see it as they job to try to stop business in its tracks.

  30. Mark Dixon says:

    This is an amazing site and Janine and Cathy have really made the essays relevant. The contributors you guys have found as guest bloggers are awesome. I want to say thank you so much for doing this!

  31. Will says:

    “When asked why he was against the South leaving the Union, Abe Lincoln replied: ‘Where would we get our income?’ ”

    Do you have a link for that or a text for attribution? I’m curious to see the remaining context of that Lincoln quote.


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