The real U.S. Constitution, which was scrapped long ago, does not permit judges to be its final interpreters, executive orders, coercion of the people of a State by the federal government, delegation of control of the currency to a private banking cartel, the subsidy of private corporations, or calling the militia to active service except in case of invasion or rebellion and at the request of the State.
The Constitution should have been reverently buried long ago. Except that its rotting corpse provides lucrative pickings for lawyers and pseudo-respectable cover for power seekers. The central government has no check on its power that is not determined by the politicians in control of its various branches. They seldom check each other but frequently check the people and the States. The 14th Amendment, illegitimately promulgated in the wake of Lincoln’s revolution, has provided power seekers with everything they need to fulfill their limitless ambitions.
The Constitution died when Abraham Lincoln decided to treat the solemn constitutional acts of the people of eleven states as mere “combinations of lawbreakers” to be destroyed by the force at the command of the party in control of the federal executive. One may celebrate or abhor that fact, but fact it is. And Lincoln so acted even though in the election that brought him to power, 60 per cent of the people had voted against “a policy of coercion.”
The document that was designed to provide specified operational powers to a federal government was changed into an unappealable instrument of power. There is a great unnoticed peculiarity in the name of this country. Before Lincoln, “United States” was a plural—in all laws, treaties, proclamations, and in the Constitution itself. It was a “Constitution FOR the United States of America.” And while Americans sometimes referred to a common identity as a “nation,” their common government was usually referred to as the “Union” or the “general government.”
We now assume that the Constitution is something to be interpreted by “constitutional lawyers,” especially those on the federal bench. “Constitutional lawyers” busy themselves with “emanations” and a “living document,” or else they talk about stare decisis and “original intent.” Usually they cite “original intent” from “The Federalist,” a series of deceitful essays put forward by the defeated centralist party in the Philadelphia Convention, which was never ratified by any people. The “original intent” of the real Constitution can only be interpreted by the intentions of the people of the States who ratified (gave their consent) and thus made the document valid. Their intentions were made clear when they ratified and in the clarifying Ten Amendments upon which they insisted. The real Constitution did not belong to lawyers, who obfuscate for a living, but to the people of the States. The proper meaning of the Constitution is not a legal question but a historical one. Citizens did not need lawyers and judges to tell them what THEIR Constitution meant. A truly living Constitution would be one in which the people take continuing active part.
Contrary to “democratic capitalists” and other Marxists, economics does not determine history. However, it is regrettably true that money, the love of which is the root of much evil, explains a lot of human motivation. The goal of centralising power in Washington has ALWAYS been part of a wealth distribution agenda. The efforts of Hamilton and his successors intended to use the government to transfer weath from the agricultural class to the speculator class. They even made a plausible defense of this as a patriotic program for national “development.”
It is equally true of Lincoln. The PRIMARY accomplishment of his revolution was a permanent national debt and to establish the federal government as the handmaiden of corporations, which has continued to this day. You may deplore or applaud this fact, but it is a fact. It is hardly a secret. Northern leaders at the time said plainly, frequently, and emphatically that crushing the South was necessary to Northern prosperity. Lincoln’s self-contradictory but pretty words about government of the people was window-dressing. Truly, slavery was the most visible issue, though the division over that was not as great as is usually supposed. Plenty of Northerners moved to the South and owned slaves. Without any question Lincoln’s goal of forbidding slavery in the territories was not a matter of benevolence toward black people but of keeping the West as the domain of “free white men,” i.e., government sponsored capitalists. (The new States created by the Republicans west of the Missouri were not real States but pocket boroughs of the Copper Trust, the Union Pacific Railroad, etc.) The essential cause of the Republicans’ war against other Americans was that slave-owning Southerners had too much power and would not get with the self-evidently righteous program of Northern prosperity.
It is the lack of the real Constitution destroyed by Lincoln’s violence that today guarantees that the government primarily functions to transfer wealth from the productive classes to the rich and their nonproductive clients.
Hindsight has presented the crushing of the South not only as a great crusade of benevolence, but has obliterated consciousness of how revolutionary it was and the degree to which it was necessary to crush the North as well as the South. There is a sense in which the North was crushed by Lincoln’s party as well as the South. For Lincoln’s party the government was a. money-making proposition, not a focus of patriotism. That they destroyed constitutional government was of little concern to the rent-seekers.
Southerners, with their old-fashioned notions of republican virtue and Constitutional limits, were an obstacle to rent-seeking that had to be removed. Karl Marx, many of whose comrades held positions in Lincoln’s party and army, completely agreed with Lincoln. The Southerners, who had played a major role in the founding and progress of the United States, were according to Marx an oppressive and aggressive ruling class of “slave drivers” who must be destroyed because they stood in the way of the “labor of the emigrant,” i.e., the European national socialist who was to profit from the paradise created by American pioneers. The slave drivers were engaged in a wicked rebellion against the “one great democratic republic whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued.” Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address certified and immortalised Marx’s version of American history. The meaning of the Constitution had now been re-ordered by ideology and cut off from the people.
Yet the people still have the capacity to exercise power through their indestructible States. State rights is merely an institutional aspect of the primary right of self-government.
About Clyde Wilson
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of www.shotwellpublishing.com, a source for unreconstructed Southern books. More from Clyde Wilson