Eric Peters writes for LRC about the destruction of the voluntary Union and the rise of the US Empire a century and a half ago. Of course, his title “When American Went Crazy” is not exactly accurate. There is no single “America” in any real sense. The Southern people maintained their belief in the traditional freedoms and autonomy they inherited from their ancestors. The folks in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes were a different breed, a different culture, a different ethnicity with a completely different outlook on the world - in short, a different nation of people. Through force of arms they destroyed the old de-centralised Republic and erected an Empire on the smoldering ashes of that which they burned down. Continually expanding, this Empire today controls vast portions of the globe and is constantly at war to remake foreign nations in its imagine.
America lost its mind 146 years ago and hasn’t been the same since. Or rather, it’s been a different country ever since.
A psychotic, self-referential, duplicitous country – largely ignorant of its own history and convinced of its messianic role in word affairs. A country not merely content to live – and let live. But one determined to to force others – everyone – to live its way.
At bayonet point, if need be,
It all goes back to the events of 1861-1865. The struggle for Southern independence, which the modern histories dishonestly – not merely mistakenly – call the “Civil War.”
Which it was not.
The Southern states had no desire to dominate the Northern states, nor to control the government of the North. (Which is what the “federal” government had become by 1861, as the Northern states and Northern corporatist cartels controlled it; Lincoln was the front man for these corporatist interests – a shyster lawyer and born grifter who would do anything – to anyone – in the service of his paymasters.)
No, the Southern states simply wished to exercise that right which the American colonists themselves had exercised in 1776 (and which some Northern states had themselves threatened to exercise on prior occasions, for similar reasons). The right to withdraw from the voluntary union entered into by each sovereign state at the time of the ratification of the federal Constitution. The motives were no different – and no less honorable or legitimate: The Southern states, like the American colonies, had come to regard the central authority as distant, unrepresentative and increasingly tyrannical. It no longer served their interests. It no longer represented them. And to paraphrase the author of the original Declaration of Independence, when a government no longer operates in the best interests of the people as they see those interests; when it no longer represents them; and when its actions evince a systematic effort to subjugate them, when other remedies have not proved fruitful, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government – and start over.
This is what we celebrate on July 4th but what we also (in typically demented/ignorant/hypocritical American fashion) excoriate the Southern states for having done.
Thiswas the Southern conception of “consent of the governed” – the same one held by the American revolutionaries – and the same one eradicated by the victory of the North over the South.
Since that unlucky event, there has been no recourse, no escape from Washington’s self-proclaimed, self-defined, self-interpreted and increasingly unlimited authority. We the People are not governed by consent but by force. This fact is too obvious to require extensive elaboration, yet many continue to believe we are “free” because we have “democracy” – that is, we may vote. But we do not have a choice. There is no freedom option. Just Government X (Republican) or Government Y (Democrat). This duopoly is far more subtle – and thus, far more effective – than the obvious single-party tyrannies of the past. But in fact we do have a single ruling elite – and so, no real choice – if your choice is liberty.
Lincoln – the ur American tyrant who set the stage for the blood-soaked Deciders to come – was the first to twist plain English and the meaning of the American Revolution into their dark matter opposites.
“Consent of the governed” became somehow a consolidated federal leviathan from which there is no appeal or escape. The consent of the Southern people (and thus, all Americans) trampled underfoot, to be kept forevermore in a forced union, like a bad marriage – at bayonet point.
“Republican” government – that is, delineated (and thus, inherently limited) powers became “democracy” – open-ended, unlimited mob rule, via the vote – administered by millions of petty tyrants from the DMV to the TSA to EPA to the IRS.
From this sprang the ends-justify-the-means (any means) rationales that have been used to abrogate every single formerly sacred right that the Bill of Rights was written explicitly to declare and protect.
And it was Lincoln and his crew – including war criminals such as Sheridan and Sherman (who would have made fine corps commanders in Hitler’s Waffen SS or Stalin’s Red Army) that gave life to the American Mission, the subjugation of the world itself.
Not merely consolidation and uniformity. A conviction that there is only one morally right way to live – the Yankee (corporatist/empire) way – and it must be brought to every corner of the Earth, by any means necessary.
There is a meaningful line in the Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. A union officer is confronted by a tired scout who admonishes him that the war is over; that it is time to stop the carnage. To let people be. The officer replies, “There ain’t no end to doin’ right.” In this you can hear the future echos of George W. Bush – or Barack Obama. From Iraq to Libya to main street, USA – there ain’t no end to doin’ right.
The orthodox histories pass over all this, touting instead the morally righteous crusade of the North to free the slaves and help the Black Man. Except of course the North did no such thing. Not only was slavery protected in the North and Northern-held territories until after the war was over (in other words, for nearly two years after the so-called Emancipation Proclamation of 1863) but the Northern populace would have revolted if Lincoln had touted his determination to subjugate the South – to “save the union” – as a crusade to free the black man. Not only was Lincoln himself a virulent racist (and a founding member of the Illinois “back to Africa” movement) but so was the North, which saw free blacks as threat to free white labor and which had “black codes” every bit – and often more – brutal than the black codes students are endlessly lectured about as being a Southern exclusive.
But pay no mind to that man behind the curtain. The war was about saving democracy and the consent of the governed. America is righteous. Let freedom ring.
Even though – as singer Merle Haggard put it – the average American has less real freedom today than he had as a parolee back in 1969.
Until the American people recover their senses the American consolidated Empire will only grow more oppressive, more and more openly brutal.
A people incapable of leaving their neighbors alone cannot be expected to leave the world alone.
Cloverism was born at Appomatox.
It is up to us to see it strangled.