The Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868 to empower the federal government — including particularly federal courts — to stamp out a culture of lawless tyranny and oppression in the South by enforcing basic civil rights of newly freed blacks and their white supporters. This culture of oppression took many forms, including widespread censorship, the systematic disarmament of freedmen and white unionists, and the wholesale denial of economic liberty. At the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment was the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which the Supreme Court effectively deleted from the Constitution in the 1873 Slaughterhouse Cases. Today, that judicial error continues to take its toll on important freedoms like private property and the right to earn an honest living, which receive virtually no protection from courts despite their obvious importance to ensuring the economic autonomy of the freedmen following the Civil War and all Americans today.
Statolatry: (n) 1. Worship of the state, 2. Advocacy of a highly centralized and empowered national government, 3. The act or practice of idolizing a state.
First used by Giovanni Gentile, writing at Benito Mussolini, in Doctrine of Fascism, published in 1931.
From Information is Beautiful:
Those of you who’ve had the good fortune to be born in the United States simply have not known the absence of freedoms…You can only imagine, but not experience, what it’s like to live in a society where these freedoms are absent.
…but if we don’t start reigning in our political class, we might get to find out first hand.
Apparently, the remains of Richard III, the eponymous villain of Shakespeare’s Tudor propagandizing play, have been found under a parking lot in Greyfriars where the an abbey once stood and had been demolished during Henry VIII’s war on the Catholic Church. The Washington Post has more.
“The advocates of spending think they have a killer piece of evidence for their position that economic vitality requires larger government budgets: World War II. The standard story has it that despite Franklin D. Roosevelt’s best efforts, the New Deal did not quite end the Great Depression. What did? According to this story, it was the massive spending behind U.S. participation in the wars in Europe and the Pacific. The vigorous economic growth of the late 1940s and 1950s is touted as evidence for the blessings of big government spending.”
But Sheldon Richman begs to differ. Worth the read.
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.
–Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824.
Guess which one of these groups are running the Democrat and Republican parties..? Hint: it isn’t the Democrats.
This post was inspired by the idiocy and ignorance of MSNBC weekend morning host Melissa Harris-Perry who was blathering on Hardball about Paul Ryan’s use of The Declaration of Independence, and specifically concerning rights originating from God and not government. (Hit link for video.)
“The thing I really have against him is actually how he and Gov. Romney have misused the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “I’m deeply irritated by their notion that the ‘pursuit of happiness’ means money for the richest and that we extricate the capacity of ordinary people to pursue happiness. When they say ‘God and nature give us our rights, not government,’ that is a lovely thing to say as a wealthy white man.”
That is a popular critique of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Constitution in current academic and Progressive circles. As usual, victims studies types love to use the 3/5ths clause, Jefferson’s (and others’) owning of slaves to discount the works of the men and the very foundation of the United States as a place of individual liberty. “But they had slaves! Women and blacks couldn’t vote!”
Absolutely true. But viewing the Founders and their works from the comfort of our 21st Century existence diminishes (I would suggest, for these critics, purposefully) their importance, and also fails to comprehend the world in which these documents were written, how these men lives and believed, and what they were trying to accomplish.
Context being half the argument, here is some. In 1776 when the Declaration was written, and even 1787 when the Constitutional Convention began, we must remember a few salient facts:
1) Slavery was normal. Slavery was in use in every country, every continent, every society — yes, including the “noble savages” of North America — everywhere on the planet. Whites were enslaves. Blacks were enslaved. Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Aborigines…all had, all had people that were enslaved.
“But that doesn’t make it right!” the Progressive screams. Well, yes…to most minds of the time, it did. The Founders were the Enlightenment, which synthesized the humanism of the Renaissance with the notions of self-governance from the Calvinist and Presbyterian kirks, with the notions of self-ownership of Adam Smith and self-sovereignty of other thinkers like Rousseau.
By declaring government to be responsible to the people, and not the other way around, the Declaration made a resounding and novel claim that the individual was important, and that government existed solely to secure the environment for their enterprises, whatever they might be.
For a moment, we’ll stick with Jefferson…
2) Jefferson was not the racist hypocrite the Left makes him out to be. Yes, he owned slaves. This was, once again, normal for a plantation owner in Virginia. So it would have been a monumental effort to try to abolish it — which he did while governor of the state. His proposal was roundly rejected. “But he kept his slaves!” Yes, he did. Jefferson was a notorious spender. He was perpetually in debt, and one of the things he collateralized were many of his slaves. You cannot dispose of property used as collateral on a loan. He was legally bound to keep them. “He raped Sally Hemmings!” Unlikely, although certainly there could have been coercion. He travelled with her extensively in Europe, in essence “kept house” with her in Virginia, had kids with her (which he manumitted.)
Does that make it right? I don’t think so, but I am a product of the late 20th Century. Back then, Jefferson was a radical. Perhaps hypocritical, but a radical nonetheless.
3) “What about slavery in the Constitution? The 3/5th Clause?” Glad you asked. It’s 1787, you’ve got big powers on your doorstep that distrust your experiment in popular sovereignty (remember, this is the time of absolute monarchism in France, and George III in Britain though it was a smashing idea, as well…unfortunately his father and grandfather has allowed the nation to be run by their prime ministers and power had bled away from the Crown.) Your states are sharply divided on the notion of slavery. Enough so, that the chance of cobbling together a working nation that can defend itself is almost certainly lost if you do not compromise. That compromise is the — it was thought — temporary allowance of slavery in the souther states. As to the 3/5ths Clause, this was not the Founders saying a black was worth less than another man; they were attempting to prevent the slave states from gaining too much power by leveraging their massive enslaved population to control the nation’s policies (including extending slavery.) It was an attempt to squeeze the South out of slavery.
It did not work. This does not negate the importance or earnestness of their efforts. We are, after all, frequently told by the same people that castigate the Founders that intentions are more important than results. The intentions of Jefferson and his ilk were perhaps the best of all American generations. Viewing them through a modern prism might seem to provide a more balanced understanding of what they did and why, but it what it really does is strip away real understanding of the men (and the women that supported them), their works, and the foundations of the nation. They were flawed, they were occasionally hypocritical, they were divided, they were pushed by political and fiscal realities to compromise on some of their basic principles. They were human.