View from the Left

At VFR, Auster and Mencius Moldbug are sparring over the so-called “Civil War.” Moldbug correctly points out that Auster typically takes the leftist side in events that happened before 1960: he sides with the American rebels against the British; the Union against the Confederacy; with FDR against the Old Right; with the Civil Rights Movement against Southern segregationists, etc.

Auster writes:

But that’s not the whole picture. The South, instead of seeking to maintain slavery where it existed, had sought to expand it into the new territories.

The South always had the constitutional right to expand slavery into the territories.

Initially they supported Stephen A. Douglas’s popular sovereignty idea, as embodied in the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854m which allowed the people of the territories to choose to allow the institution or not.

Actually, Douglas’s notion of “squatter sovereignty” was never popular in the South and was widely ridiculed at the time.

But then the South angrily rejected popular sovereignty because it didn’t go far enough, it didn’t give them the automatic right to move slavery into the North.

The Dred Scott decision struck down the Kansas-Nebraska Act and gave Southerners the right to expand slavery into any of the federal territories irrespective of latitude.

It was that demand on the part of the Southerners that split the Democratic party into a Northern and Southern party in 1860 and assured the election of Lincoln.

No, it was the flagrant rejection of the Constitution by Northerners in the wake of Dred Scott that caused Southerners to break with Northern Democrats. The disregard of the Constitution by Lincoln and his associates would only become more egregious through the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Justified indignation over Northern support for John Brown’s raid did not justify demanding the automatic right to expand slavery into the North.

As noted above, the Dred Scott decision gave Southerners the constitutional right to expand slavery into any of the territories.

It did not justify splitting the Democratic party, and it did not justify the South’s precipitate secession from the Union when, as a result of the South’s splitting of the Democratic party, the Republican candidate won the presidency.

1.) Douglas split the Democratic Party by insisting upon “popular sovereignty” even after it had been rejected by the Supreme Court.

2.) Virginia and other states reserved the right to secede from the Union at the time of the ratification of the Constitution.

And of course it did not justify the firing on Fort Sumter, which made Northerners mighty indignant.

Fort Sumter was the property of South Carolina.

A major flaw in the mentality of the Southerners and their apologists up to the present moment is the assumption that only the Southerners have a right ever to get indignant about anything, that only the South has a sense of honor. This timocratic solipsism led the South to behave in ways that, had they been thinking instead of just furiously emoting, they would have seen would arouse their own ultimate nemesis, a North that was set on preserving the Union as strongly as the South was set on destroying it.

The North didn’t fight to “preserve the Union.” It fought to impose a radically new constitutional order upon the South which was later cemented in the Reconstruction amendments.

Had they seen that, they might have proceeded more rationally. They might, for example, have sought the North’s consent to their secession.

That would have contradicted the South’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution. If sovereignty rested in the people of the several states, Southerners never required the consent of the North to secede from the Union.

Instead, the South raised its middle finger to the North and said, “Eff you, United States of America,” arousing a fixed determination in the breasts of millions of Northerners that they were not going to allow the United States to be destroyed by people who had shown such contempt for them.

The South fought for its independence; the North fought to exterminate self government in the South.

But the people of the North weren’t primarily motivated by liberalism or whiggism or whatever. They were motivated by loyalty to their country, which the South was outrageously seeking to tear apart.

No, they were motivated by the lust to dominate and control others, a spirit which was carried on into the wars against the Plains Indians, which became openly imperial in the war against Spain, and then morphed into wars of conquest for universal dominion over the planet in WW1 and WW2.

The Northerners were the conservatives, the Southerners were the radicals.

This is absurd. Reconstruction was conservative?

The Southerners even had wild-eyed plans to build a slavery empire in Latin America once they had broken free of the United States.

Actually, it was Ulysses S. Grant who sought to acquire Santo Domingo in the Caribbean. Seward extended U.S. dominion over Alaska. In the 1870s, the U.S. began to extend its commercial empire into the South Pacific.

Actually, it was the South, far more than the North, who held to the idea that people could do whatever they wanted and could not be contained.

Every licentious idea that has ever arisen and taken root in the United States originated in the North, not the South.

The secession of the Deep South on the basis of nothing but the lawful election of a president, their collective psychosis, prior to the election, that Lincoln was going to invade the South as soon as he took office, the firing on Fort Sumter–these were not the behaviors of people devoted to order, the social and cosmic order invoked in Shakespeare’s speech; these were the actions of a people who felt they could do whatever they liked.

The South was reacting against a North that was convinced in 1860 that it could dispose of the Constitution in the name of the “higher law.”

It was Lincoln who (as profoundly argued by Irving Babbitt in Democracy and Leadership) represented, on the political level, the principle of the “inner check” or the control of one’s ordinary, impulsive self, by one’s higher, ethical self.

Resorting to inciting a slave rebellion as a war measure must obviously be an example of Lincoln’s “higher, ethical self.”

It was Lincoln seeking to maintain the unity and identity of the polity; it was the South that represented the principle of unconstrained impulse and destructive freedom. And the same basic liberal/libertarian mentality is still seen today in the Southern apologists.

No, it was the abolitionists who were the vanguard of “the principle of unconstrained impulse and destructive freedom.” After the war, the former abolitionists would take on new social crusades. It was their descendents who backed the “Civil Rights Movement” in the 1960s.

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  1. “arousing a fixed determination in the breasts of millions of Northerners that they were not going to allow the United States to be destroyed by people who had shown such contempt for them.” ( — Lawrence Auster, quoted by Prozium)

    I don’t see how secession would “destroy” the United States. Wouldn’t it just reduce it in size? Wouldn’t it still be the United States, not “destroyed” although shrunk? Abraham Lincoln said the same kind of thing: “That government of the people, by the people, and for the people not perish from the earth.” But if the South seceded, the north would have the same government it had, so if that government was “of, by, and for the people,” that particular form of government would still be around, would not perish from the earth. So, what did Lincoln mean? In fact, the south would have that form of government too, so it doubly wouldn’t perish from the earth: the CSA would have it, and the USA would. So, Lincoln was an excellent rhetorician but not if you listened carefully to what he was actually saying. If you listened carefully there were passages that didn’t bear too close scrutiny.

  2. How would Mr. Bug affiliate Judaism with Christianity? Judaism as reactionary? Christianity as revolutionary? If so then the English revolution was reactionary (i.e. Catholicism was revolutionary/progressive) and thus the Puritans were returning to a reactionary time (i.e the Old Testament/Judaism). England under Cromwell became a theocratic dictatorship. The parliamentary monarchy, under Charles was much more progressive, i.e democratic.

  3. Look at this, for example, from Cleburne’s log entry:

    “The great H.L. Mencken was right when he wrote that the Gettysburg Address was good poetry but bad logic. It was Lincoln’s attempt to rewrite American history in a way that would serve the purposes of the Hamiltonian nationalists, who by his time had morphed into Republicans. Nearly every claim in the speech is false…. Americans were not ‘engaged in a great civil war,’ for a civil war is a contest for the takeover of a nation’s central government. Jefferson Davis did not want to be president of the United States any more than George Washington wanted to become King of Great Britain. It was a war to prevent Southern independence… as Mencken pointed out, it was the South that was fighting for the principle of consent of the governed.”

  4. Great quote above. It refutes both the Austerian and Moldbugian views. Auster for obvious reasons, Moldbug because he theorizes that the progressive, the forces of democracy prevail. It is evident, in contrast, that the forces of authoritarianism, under Lincoln, prevailed.

  5. A perhaps well-meaning but ignorant, wrong-headed, confused reader posts an anti-Cleburne, pro-Lincoln defense of the United States’s savage and unprovoked attack on a sovereign, peaceful country that posed no threat to it whatsoever and was strictly minding its own business, the Confederate States of America:

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