Confederate History Month 2012: The True Question: A Contest for the Supremacy of Race, as Between the Saxon Puritan of the North, and the Norman of the South (1861)


William Falconer’s The True Question: A Contest for the Supremacy of Race, as Between the Saxon Puritan of the North, and the Norman of the South appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in July 1861:

“The Southern people, though superior to all other races on this continent, are yet themselves but men, and subject to all the general laws of humanity – it, therefore, appears necessary that human agencies should be used in effecting great changes, howsoever proper. We have long been in the enjoyment of the privileges of an almost unqualified liberty, both personal and political, that we would scarcely have consented to their abridgment for any cause. But a curtailment of that liberty, and a more modified form of government, appeared to be necessary to the position which the advances of time demanded us to assume. In short, a stronger government appeared to be necessary – not a monarchy, but a sort of Patrician Republic.”

The Confederacy has assumed “a more modified form of government.” The advance of time has discredited Americanism and brought new ideas to the fore. The new stronger form of government is a “Patrician Republic.”

“At the time of forming our late government, a popular form seemed good and wise, for a variety of reasons. Most prominent among these was the fact of our having a very large territory and but a small population; it was, therefore, proper to invite emigration, by bestowing popular privileges.”

The popular privileges of the American government were responsive to the historical circumstances of another time.

“A Democracy was, therefore, the result. But such considerations have not only long since failed, but for many years have operated as a defeat of the many good objects then had in view. In the next place, a democratic polity was necessary as being the only one that could be established. There were two very different peoples engaged in the same cause of rebellion to the mother country, but each so small as to render their relative status unimportant in the economy of general society. There was, therefore, a physical compulsion for union, to move on with the first, great purpose, and no corresponding good to proceed from an assertion of superiority; and even had there been, neither party had the power to assert or maintain it.”

The Union was a product of historical circumstances: it was practical for military purposes for the Northern and Southern colonies to band together to win their independence, and it was practical to maintain the Union in light of the geopolitical circumstances of that time period, namely, vulnerability to aggression by hostile European powers.

“The hour of that hybrid thing, a democratic republic, for the government of two different races, has passed away forever, and we must now direct our attention to those ethnological facts, from out of which the next government is to flow.”

The Union was a hybrid government that attempted to unite disparate cultures. Now that the Union with the Yankees had been severed, it was time to jettison the democratic Yankee influences and create a Patrician Republic more congenial to the Norman Cavalier race.

“The peculiar form of government, under which we have for many years been living – call it by what name we may, whether a democracy or a republic – has been well calculated to demoralize, to some extent, the native, high character, of the South, and to vitiate its progress in statesmanship. There has been too much individual freedom, license rather, conferred upon the masses, through the agency of which fact, the lighter and less worthy material of society has floated to the surface. Men of actual merit, who are generally less adapted to popular approbation, have been compelled to come with their opinions and claims before the same volatile tribunal, with the worthless and flippant demagogue; and they, too, as far as was possible for them to do so, have been compelled to resort to the same vitiated means of success.”

It has already been well established as of 1861 that liberal democracy has a degenerating effect upon statesmanship and the character of the people. This has already been recognized as a problem.

“This has been a corrupting fact, equally in regard to the intellect of the country, the people of the country, the institutions and laws of the country, and the permanency of the government.”

The destructive logic of liberal democracy has corrupted society from top to bottom in countless ways.

“Our late form of popular government was doubtless, at the time of its adoption, essential to our progress as a people. In time, however, that very progress developed its organic errors and its longer inadaptation to our wants and welfare. It had conferred such privileges upon the masses, as to cause it to be difficult, now that it is gone, to effect suitable changes – under a continued presence of peace.”

Fortunately, liberal democracy has been defeated in the Confederacy; the system of government was no longer suitable to our wants and welfare, and having collapsed as a result of its own organic errors, it has been replaced by a Patrician Republic.

“In the new system which is to be organized after all the slave states shall come together, and the present tempest somewhat subsided, all sources of public corruption are to be cut off, as far as is possible; and prominently among the subjects for consideration will be those of universal suffrage and the naturalization laws. In either of which lie concealed great sources of trouble to our national peace, dignity, and strength.”

The two major sources of public corruption are identified as (1) the doctrine of universal suffrage and (2) the naturalization laws through which unassimilable aliens had liberally been absorbed into the political sphere.

Note: Unfortunately, the Confederacy succumbed to hostile invasion and slave insurrection. The counterrevolution against liberal democracy was crushed and the degenerate trends accelerated.

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  1. “Fortunately, liberal democracy has been defeated in the Confederacy; the system of government was no longer suitable to our wants and welfare, and having collapsed as a result of its own organic errors, it has been replaced by a Patrician Republic”

    I like Genovese’s interpretation of this. Liberalism means capitalism and modernism. As Genovese wrote in one of his earlier works, the South discouraged capitalism and modernism because in states where these held sway, the capitalists held sway as well. Since slavery as practiced in the South was more of a way of life than a way to unfathomed riches, the capitalists dominated wherever they gained a foothold.

    This explains why border states did not secede. In these states, capitalists held sway, and dictated that these border states would not secede; they had the power to do so, and had too much to lose with their northern business associates.

    Of course, the Southern distrust of business ultimately cost the South the war. Not only was an adequate commercial infrastructure missing to produce needed materiel, but the public infrastructure (roads, bridges, railroads, etc.) necessary for capitalism–and a successful war–were missing as well.

    As far as the universal franchise goes, I agree totally. But this is hardly unique to the South. Even Winston Churchill quipped that the best argument against democracy is spending five minutes with the average voter.

    I would add that today we need a smarter electorate desperately. But instead of a “patrician” system, based upon the ability to pay to vote (i.e., a poll tax), the criterion should be basic political knowledge, as evidenced by the ability to pass a voting test.

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