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United States Constitution

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Left Libertarians, Dobbs, and the Ninth Amendment

Interest in the Ninth Amendment has been renewed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), in which the Court held that the Constitution contains no fundamental right to abortion.  Many abortion proponents have turned to the Ninth Amendment in criticizing the decision.  For example, Damon Root at Reason described the decision as “an   …
William J. Watkins
November 16, 2022
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Do Motives Matter?

A friend of mine translated a book on Lincoln written by Karl Marx in which her first installment was a refutation by Marx of the European press’s contention that the assault by the North on the South was not about slavery but economic and political power. Of course, one cannot divorce the issue of slavery from either consideration, but Marx…
Valerie Protopapas
October 24, 2022
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Forms of Nationalism in Early America

From the 2004 Abbeville Institute Summer School My first lecture is going to be a bit of a story, but this story is not going to be one where there's a hero at the center of it. Instead this is gonna be a story about nationalism, what nationalism is and the categories of nationalism that were present during the early…
Carey Roberts
October 10, 2022
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Southern Resistance to the European Concept of Sovereignty

From the 2004 Abbeville Institute Summer School. So, our friend Don Livingston asked me to bring a European perspective on the problems of the Southern decentralist tradition. Today, I want to address what I would call, “What They Were Up Against: The Modern State and Federalism.” One of the greatest errors of mainstream Anglo-American political studies, from the history of…
Marco Bassani
October 3, 2022
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Biden’s Political Slavery

Joe Biden’s “address to the nation,” delivered September 1, 2022, was one of the most illuminating—as in revealing—speeches ever given by a president since Lincoln’s speech in which he falsely declared that the Union preceded and created the states. Biden’s speech, as in Lincoln’s speech, was full of emotion and ideological passion, supported by a fawning press but totally absent…
James Ronald Kennedy
September 14, 2022
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McCulloch v. Maryland

Editor's Note: This essay was written by Spencer Roane under the pseudonym Amphictyon in 1819. I. To the Editor of the Enquirer : SIR: I have read with considerable attention the opinion pronounced by the Chief Justice of the U. S. in the case of McCulloch against the State of Maryland. In that opinion we are informed, First, That it…
Abbeville Institute
August 29, 2022
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“His Richest Legacy to Posterity”

From Gustavus Pinckney, Life of John C. Calhoun. The attentive reader will not have forgotten that in the letter of Mr. Calhoun in reference to his acceptance of the Secretaryship of State he made mention of a project which he had in mind for leisure hours in the home routine to which at that time he looked forward. The home…
Abbeville Institute
August 26, 2022
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The Federalists and the Philadelphia Convention

We have before us The Federalist Number 10. I'd like to say a word about The Federalist. As you know, it was here (in Philadelphia) that the Constitution, that infamous document, was signed. It was a document that was already well on its road to destruction in my mind. When people ask me, “Well, when did the Constitution die?” I…
Ross Lence
August 17, 2022
BlogClyde Wilson Library

A View of the Constitution

From the 2004 Abbeville Institute Summer School. St. George Tucker is a significant member of the Revolutionary generation, the Founding Generation, and he was looked to by Jefferson and Madison as the judge of Jeffersonian democracy, the man who saved the judiciary from false doctrines in his View of the Constitution and his other writings. Tucker’s View was published in…
Clyde Wilson
July 18, 2022
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The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Origins of Southern Constitutionalism

From the 2004 Abbeville Institute Summer School On April 10th, 1606, King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) granted letters of patent to Sir Thomas Gates and others, thereby establishing two companies for the settlement of colonies along the Atlantic coast of North America, which was then called Virginia in honour of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. The…
John Graham
July 7, 2022
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The Confederate Constitution

From the 2003 Abbeville Institute Summer School I come from a somewhat different mold and my thought processes on these issues have changed a bit over the last couple of years. I have written on American jurisprudence and I have detected what I would deem to be ominous trends in American case law, and also in international law. I also…
Marshall DeRosa
June 6, 2022
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The Nullification Crisis

Going back to Jefferson, you can say that Jefferson’s vision of radical Federalism was of a libertarian Federalism, based on the rights of local self-government circumscribing and limiting their agent, the Federal government, whose referent is not a single people, but the peoples of the various States. It’s strange that in the writings from the Founding period, the plural of…
Marco Bassani
June 1, 2022
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Commander in Chief of the Reds, Blues, and Wars

Katy Pavlich commented on the Five recently that President Biden needed to do something about the southern border problem as it was his responsibility as Commander-in-chief. Now, Ms. Pavlich, in my opinion, is one of the more clued-up and sager among the groups or individuals who are trotted out as either regulars or contributors on Fox. As a rule, she…
Paul H. Yarbrough
May 27, 2022
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The Anti-Federalists and the Ratification Debates

From the 2003 Abbeville Institute Summer School. I’m going to be talking about the Anti-Federalists. The first question we might ask is: “Who were the Anti-Federalists and why did they take the position they took?” Today, historians are never happy just to study the writings, speeches, correspondence, and other documents produced by the protagonists of an era or a battle.…
Marco Bassani
May 23, 2022
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The Unconstitutional “National Guard”

Speech delivered by Senator A.O. Bacon of Georgia, December, 1902. Mr. President: Of course, I think the amendment offered by the Senator from Ohio , which has now been accepted, makes this section less objectionable. I might agree, however, with what the Senator from Wisconsin stated yesterday, that with this amendment the section is of not very much practical operation.…
A.O. Bacon
May 4, 2022
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Why Were the Articles of Confederation Dissolved?

I'm going to talk about the way the Articles of Confederation functioned, how people acted under the Articles, and the three reasons why I think the Articles were dissolved. The signers of the Articles of Confederation were not happy with what was finally implemented. Indeed, once the Articles were sent to the States, it took nearly four years before they…
Carey Roberts
April 29, 2022
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The Constitutionality of Secession

To begin with, it is hornbook law* that the signatories to any contract or compact, are all accorded the same rights; that is, no signatory of such an agreement has more—or fewer—rights than any other signatory. Neither does this fact have to be stated in the document; it is understood. If the Party of the First Part is permitted to…
Valerie Protopapas
April 7, 2022
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The Gathering Mystique of Union

‘Union’  neither denotes nor explicates a form of government. It is a word estranged in both the commonplace and the legal arts. There is no constraint to the daily rumble of social or personal definition. Any two or more people can form a 'union', even without using the word. At law ‘union’ is not a term of art. Rather it…
Vito Mussomeli
April 4, 2022
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Democracy and Universal Suffrage

Edmund Ruffin, from his Diary: hen the mob bears the sway in elections, it knows little, & cares not at all, for the superior fitness or honesty of candidates. Each of the lowest voters gives his vote, or the direction of his vote, to some one the nearest in qualities to himself, or by whose favor the voter expects to…
Abbeville Institute
January 13, 2022
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Secession Isn’t Treason

A few more words, and we shall be in a condition to answer the question which stands at the head of this chapter. Being a legal question, it will depend entirely upon the constitutional right the Southern States may have had to withdraw from the Union, without reference to considerations of expediency, or of moral right; these latter will be…
Raphael Semmes
December 1, 2021
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An Able Address Against Conscription

Editor's Note: This speech was delivered in 1917 and was published in the September issue of Watson's Magazine. Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: Deeply impressed with the gravity of this occasion, and an earnest desire to preserve the liberties of my people and our common country, I beg to submit, that — The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United…
H.W. Johnston
November 19, 2021
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A New Civil War?

By 1860 our country was so hopelessly divided that it broke up, and only by force was it kept unified. While the North and South had profound political, economic, and moral differences, institutional slavery being paramount, the two halves had a great deal in common, so much so that after the bloodletting and rage subsided, we were able to come…
M.C. Atkins
November 17, 2021
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Disunion Then and Now

The delegates who gathered in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation, presumptuously shelving that document, concluded their work on the proposed U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.  On another September 17th three quarters of a century later, the quarrels that had commenced at that gathering were to continue in a cornfield at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. One hundred…
J.L. Bennett
October 22, 2021
Review Posts

Spencer Roane: The Forgotten Founder

A review of Irreconcilable Founders: Spencer Roane, John Marshall, and the Nature of America's Constitutional Republic (LSU Press, 2021) by David Johnson Of all the leading Jeffersonians of the early Republic—Jefferson, Madison, John Randolph of Roanoke, and John Taylor of Caroline—Spencer Roane is arguably the most obscure. This obscurity is lamentable because while Jefferson and Madison built and led their party,…
Aaron N. Coleman
September 30, 2021
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The National Archives Labels the Constitution “Racist”

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all it was completely logical, the inevitable result of the insane “woke” political correctness that has been building and raging, largely unabated, in the United States now for years. Indeed, in my regular columns and essays I have been writing that this insanity, spread and imposed like a highly contagious and fatal…
Boyd Cathey
September 29, 2021
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So, it was a Civil War after all…

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. . .” Abraham Lincoln ~ First Inaugural Address I have always believed—reasonably, I think—that Lincoln used this term before ever a shot was fired in order to apportion an equal part of the blame for the war he was prepared to initiate to…
Valerie Protopapas
August 19, 2021
Review Posts

Chaining Down Leviathan

A review of Chaining Down Leviathan: The American Dream of Self-Government 1776-1865 (Abbeville Institute Press, 2021) by Marco Bassani How is it that America became a “strong but limited” government, and the world’s richest and most free country? That is the central question both considered and answered by Luigi Marco Bassani in his new work, Chaining Down Leviathan: The American…
Dave Benner
August 10, 2021
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The End of America?

I have a good friend who continually asks me what I think are the prospects for sensible, conservative—that is, normal—folks in these parlous times, what I think will happen to these United States, and particularly, what will happen to the South. In response to his questioning, I can’t give a satisfactory answer, at least one nicely tied-up and tidy like…
Boyd Cathey
August 2, 2021
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A Cascadian Confederacy?

Nearly two weeks ago, five counties in Oregon voted to approve a measure to secede from the state and join its neighbor Idaho. The counties of Malheur, Sherman, Baker, Grant, and Lake joined Jefferson and Union county who had already voted in favor of similar measures last year. According to greateridaho.org, “the ballot measures are a part of an effort…
Cole Branham
June 4, 2021
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Is Secession Treason?

And they, sweet soul, that most impute a crimeAre pronest to it, and impute themselves…Tennyson, from Idylls of the King (1) The US Supreme Court, in Texas vs. White, ruled that secession from the Union was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, in 1869, wrote the majority “opinion of the court.” His opinion was not that of Thomas Jefferson, the…
H.V. Traywick, Jr.
June 3, 2021
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Judicial Review? No. Nullification

“Acts of congress, to be binding, must be made pursuant to the constitution; otherwise they are not laws, but a mere nullity.” -St. George Tucker “There is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore unalarming instrumentality of the Supreme Court.” -Thomas Jefferson As a pro-life Jeffersonian, I am constantly frustrated…
Earl Starbuck
February 22, 2021
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A Fig for the Constitution

“A fig for the Constitution” if it does not protect our most basic rights was John Randolph’s nineteenth century estimation of the value of the Constitution. In 2021 his words of warning are even more applicable. What power does the Constitution have to protect the First Amendment’s guarantee to peacefully assemble and the free exercise of religion when the government…
James Ronald Kennedy
February 11, 2021
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Pretenses

You might call it propaganda, state lies, fraud, illusions or delusions. I prefer pretenses which afford the peddler thereof and the hapless fool who buys into them just the degree of deniability so that they can pretend that what is represented or misrepresented is respectable and a touchstone for the common weal. 1. America was founded: The country which we…
Robert Peters
January 14, 2021
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Secession: The Point of the Spear

Secession: The point of the spear aimed at the heart of the American Leviathan – or so I once thought. Certainly secession has been a live idea in Europe for a long time, often under the rubric of “self-determination.” Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism in 1927 that “he right of self-determination... thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular…
Terry Hulsey
November 20, 2020
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Is Separation the Answer?

As of Friday, November 6, the votes are still being counted in at least six states. The large pro-Trump margins that seemed to prevail late election night have now disappeared as mail in votes, many of doubtful legality have begun to trickle in. Large Democratically-controlled cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, and Atlanta have miraculously produced tranches of almost completely Biden votes—legal…
Boyd Cathey
November 9, 2020
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A Neo-Confederate Prediction of Post-Election America

The political chaos that has accompanied President Trump’s first term will not abate anytime soon. From the Russian Collusion hoax to rioting in the streets to the public policy responses to the Covid-19 so-called pandemic, there appears to be something afoot that does not bode well for the future. Whether the motivation is ideological, economic, official incompetence, or a toxic…
Marshall DeRosa
October 27, 2020
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When Yankees Pack the Court

The 2020 presidential election took a decided turn as it moved into the final six weeks when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, passed away, opening up a seat that would, if filled by a conservative, shift the ideological balance of the High Court, and bringing the issue to the forefront of what is already a raucous…
Ryan Walters
October 9, 2020
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Lawyers and the Lawless Law of the Land

The Supreme Court once again is the headline of the news. Judge Ginsburg died leaving eight judges for the nine-seat court. The so-called media, as usual, portrays SCOTUS as the greatest authority since God gave his law to Moses. But, now, the worship of man’s law begins again in the news. The drainage of all political conversation regarding SCOTUS seems…
Paul H. Yarbrough
October 8, 2020
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Was Secession Treason?

Recently an acquaintance of mine remarked that the Confederate statue in her hometown should be removed from its present place of honour and relocated to the Confederate cemetery which is presently (and sadly) in a state of neglect. The statue should be moved, she said, because while the boys who fought and died during the Late Unpleasantness deserve to be…
Earl Starbuck
September 18, 2020
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They Were Not Traitors

A typical calumny directed at Confederate soldiers is that they don’t merit commemoration because they were traitors. It is a lie for two reasons. First, the Confederate states had no intent to overthrow the government of the United States. They seceded merely to form a government of their own. The first seven states that seceded during the winter of 1860-61…
Philip Leigh
September 16, 2020
Review Posts

The Seventeenth Amendment and the Siren Song of Democracy

A Review of The Road to Mass Democracy: Original Intent and the Seventeenth Amendment (Routledge, 2017) by C.H. Hoebeke On April 8, 1913, the requisite three quarters of the State legislatures kneecapped themselves, surrendering to “the people” their authority to elect Senators of the United States. The ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which provided for the direct popular election of…
Neil Kumar
July 8, 2020
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The Electoral College is not a Liberal Arts College

It is an established principle of the current political class, made up of mostly of abhorrent political party office seekers and bureaucrats that the Electoral College is not just obsolete, but apparently a fool’s errand.  The Democrats, for now, are at the forefront of this thought. But then what can be expected of a group of people who think 16-year-olds…
Paul H. Yarbrough
May 30, 2020
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Expertitis

Watching events unfold as the non-pandemic/pandemic worked its way across the fruited plain has been an eye-opening experience.  For those of us who have been warning Americans that the Constitution is nothing but a paper barricade against tyranny, we are vindicated—but this is not a source of joy.  Many years ago, I had a good friend who loved cigarettes and…
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The Janitor in Chief as Lord of the Cosmos

Once upon a time, somewhere near here, there were thirteen sturdy proprietors. They lived within haling distance of one another and things weren’t so bad. There was a fourteenth proprietor as well, a rascally fellow called Vermotte, but no one liked him or visited him. Anyway, a couple of these householders got a bad case of Condo-maniacal Vision and began…
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Blackstone’s Influence on American Political Philosophy

The question before us, ‘how did the writings of Blackstone influence American political philosophy, and what evidence for this influence is seen in Tocqueville's observations of American political life?’ is perhaps best quantified with qualifiers such as influence ‘upon whom’, ‘for how long’, ‘to what extent’. If we accept a genealogy of ideas from Blackstone’s conception of positive law reinforcing…
Barry Clark
May 13, 2020
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Why No Confederate Supreme Court?

The Confederacy never organized a Supreme Court because her founders generally interpreted the U. S. Constitution strictly. Over the years they had seen that the U. S. Supreme Court tended to make rulings, and assume jurisdictions, that strengthened and enlarged the Federal Government. As a component of that Government they realized that the Court had a natural tendency to increase its authority.…
Philip Leigh
May 6, 2020
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Calhoun and Constitutionalism

Union and liberty are not two terms most people associate with John C. Calhoun, a figure often linked exclusively with secession and slavery. But a reading of Liberty Fund’s 1992 Union and Liberty, a single-volume collection of Calhoun’s writings and speeches edited by the late Ross M. Lence, reveals a mind most intently focused on investigating and assessing the origins…
John Grove
April 20, 2020
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Federalists Still Attack Calhoun

John C. Calhoun was the last eloquent political philosopher to stand against the ideology and intentions of the Federalists. He was the last to stand firmly in the halls of the Senate and articulate exactly what it would mean to allow power to become centralized under an unconstrained federal government. He died in 1850.  His words are ignored and personage…
Barry Clark
March 18, 2020
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Reconsidering William Henry Harrison

Who was the greatest president in American history? Ask this question to a group of people who are cynical of the imperial presidency and at least one person will answer William Henry Harrison, the man who died one month after taking office. Who could be better than a president who impacted the office in such a minimal way and who…
Brion McClanahan
February 17, 2020
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Crisis of Conservative Making

The Harvard Law Review has published a proposal for supposedly enhancing a better democracy than that which the Federal (not really) government now oversees. The proposal has no official name but is born, it would appear, from the same milieu as the French Revolution i.e, power to the people—that is, the mob. Harvard Review proposes what effectively amounts to a…
Paul H. Yarbrough
January 31, 2020
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Lincoln v. Trump

Not that long ago, it seems, Congressional Democrats were calling the Constitution an outdated impediment to “smart,” progressive government, but lately they are professing their high regard for the founding document and its framers.  “Solemn” and “prayerful,” they feign a reluctance to impeach Donald Trump while conducting a ruthless campaign to disenfranchise the 63 million people who voted for him…
J.L. Bennett
January 10, 2020
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The Ghosts of Impeachment Past

If one bothered to turn back the pages of history it should become quite evident that the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson bears a most eerie resemblance to the current two-count indictment that has been drawn up against President Trump by the Judiciary Committee of the present House of Representatives. A century and a half ago it was the…
John Marquardt
January 8, 2020
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The Land of Lawless Lawyers

The impeachment hearings are good for humor if for nothing else. They bring out the so-called experts who demonstrate that they are anything but experts. Law professor Pamela Karlan, Standford law professor, and Shelia Jackson Lee exchanged expertise on the Constitution and the Founders' concerns prior to writing it. These two experts immediately opened their mouths and demonstrated that sometimes…
Paul H. Yarbrough
December 20, 2019
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Poison Under the Wings

The beginning of the American political order goes much further back than the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.  Political scientists and political theorists are understandably fixated on the Constitution and the convention that produced it.  Eric Voegelin, Willmoore Kendall, and a few others go even further back searching for a continuity in the political symbolization present in some certain select, but…
John Devanny
November 20, 2019
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Taylor and Jefferson on Secession

One of the most enduring myths of American history centers on the “compact theory” of the Constitution. According to the standard interpretation, Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Republicans invented the “theory” to challenge Federalist control of the general government in the 1790s. This implies that Jefferson and the other Republicans acted in bad faith by playing fast and loose with…
Brion McClanahan
November 6, 2019
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St. George Tucker’s Jeffersonian Constitution

One could argue that there are two basic visions for America: the Hamiltonian and the Jeffersonian. The former is nationalist, calling for centralized power and an industrial, mercantilist society characterized by banking, commercialism, and a robust military. Its early leaders had monarchical tendencies. The latter vision involves a slower, more leisurely and agrarian society, political decentralization, popular sovereignty, and local…
Allen Mendenhall
October 11, 2019
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The South and “Red Flag” Laws

These days, we see many politicians pushing relentlessly for gun control. In the wake of recent mass shootings, several so-called “conservatives” have shown their true colors by demonizing gun owners and misrepresenting the facts on the issue. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called critics of red flag laws “libertarians” and stated that “the Second Amendment is not a suicide…
Michael Martin
October 3, 2019
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The Place of Nathaniel Macon in Southern History

Many who are well acquainted with Southern history are almost entirely unfamiliar with the historical character of Nathaniel Macon. He is often mentioned by the best of authors as a North Carolinian, as a Georgian, or simply as a Southern Democrat. His share in the political development of the South is but vaguely known, yet every southern state has either…
William E. Dodd
June 27, 2019
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The South Carolina Federalists

Original material for Southern history has been so scarce at the centres where American historiographers have worked, that the general writers have had to substitute conjecture for understanding in many cases when attempting to interpret Southern developments. The Federalists of the South have suffered particularly from misrepresentation and neglect. Their Democratic-Republican contemporaries of course abused them; the American public at…
Ulrich B. Phillips
June 26, 2019
Review Posts

The First South

A review of The First South (LSU Press, 1961) by John Richard Alden One of the things I've discovered since I began studying Civil War history is that the roots of that conflict go back to before the United States were declared "free, sovereign and independent", and so a knowledge of the history of the early South is very useful…
Shane Anderson
June 11, 2019
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The Procrustean Constitution

We have seen how Mississippi, with its campus free speech bill, totally ignored its own State constitution in favor of federal 1st Amendment arguments.  Now Texas is doing likewise in response to the San Antonio City Council’s decision to reject Chick-fil-A’s request to be a vendor in the San Antonio International Airport.  The opposition to this decision rests mostly on…
Walt Garlington
May 15, 2019
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The South and the American Union

Stretching from the Potomac River across the southeastern quarter of the United States in a broad arc into the plains of Texas is a region known geographically and politically as “the South.” That this region has been distinctive by reason of its climate, type of produce, ethnic composition, culture, manners, and speech is known to every citizen of the country.…
Richard M. Weaver
April 22, 2019
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Don’t Get Conned by the Neocons on the Constitution

So, smart moms in two homeschool social-media groups of which I’m a member are super-excited about Hillsdale College’s free “Constitution 101” course. “Hillsdale’s conservative, so it must be teaching Christian-centered history,” they say. “Hillsdale doesn’t accept grants from the federal government or participate in federal financial-aid or student-loan programs. How principled,” they opine. “Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levine both endorse…
Dissident Mama
April 19, 2019
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The Crisis of the Electoral College

A decisive moment is coming for the peoples of the States, especially for those who consider themselves conservatives yet belong to the cult of Lincoln:  Will the Electoral College system for selecting the federal president continue on, or will it be scrapped for a purely national vote?  At the State and federal level, attempts to change it are ongoing: Calls…
Walt Garlington
April 10, 2019
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Mississippi’s Free Speech Confusion

Some lawmakers in Mississippi, obviously alarmed at the violent demonstrations and restrictive measures at college campuses intended to silence what passes for conservative viewpoints, have come up what they consider a fitting solution in their legislative kitchen, House Bill 1562, ‘Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act’.  But the result is far from enticing. The heart of the bill…
Walt Garlington
March 20, 2019
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Modern Monetary Theory: A Jeffersonian Critique

The chattering class’ newest obsession, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has seized the policy initiative from the Democratic Party’s geriatrics by promoting a “Green New Deal.”  T’is clever branding to combine left-wing eco virtue signaling with FDR’s version of “down home” fascism. (If one doubts me on this last point, I refer you to John Garraty’s seminal article, “The New Deal, National Socialism,…
John Devanny
March 4, 2019
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The Idea of Equality in America

Given what is occurring in our society and culture, the ever increasing frenzy and hysteria associated with what is called “the women’s movement” and the ever-changing, always-increasing “racism test,” a review of the basics, a return to and familiarity with our history, is incumbent on us if we are to survive as a nation. Yet, the real problem is that…
Boyd Cathey
February 13, 2019
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Hamilton on Steroids

“The revenue of the state is the state.”  Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution Washington D. C. finds itself in the midst of an entertaining, nay consuming, Kabuki theatre.  The federal government has “shut down” its non-essential functions, re-opened the same, and promised to do it all over again in a few weeks, raising the question as to why…
John Devanny
February 7, 2019
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A Cautionary Tale on Monument Protection Laws

When Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo issued a ruling on the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act just minutes before his term expired last week, he upended the entire understanding and meaning of the original Constitution and the relationship between the States, the cities, and the general government. More importantly, though Graffeo's decision will probably--not definitely--be overturned, the ruling provides a…
Brion McClanahan
January 24, 2019
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Franklin Pierce, Political Protest, & the Dilemmas of Democracy

On the stump in New Boston, New Hampshire in early January 1852, Franklin Pierce gave a long oration during which free-soil hecklers forced him to address his ideas on slavery. “He was not in favor of it,” the Concord Independent Democrat reported. “He had never seen a slave without being sick at heart. Slavery was contrary to the Constitution in some…
Michael J. Connolly
January 17, 2019
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Steady Hand at the Wheel

Thomas Johnson was born in Calvert County, Maryland, on his father's lands near the mouth of St. Leonard's Creek. He was the son of Thomas and Dorcas Sedgwick Johnson and the grandson of Thomas Johnson, barrister, who was the first of the line to reside in Maryland, having fled there after running away with a chancery ward. All of these…
M.E. Bradford
December 7, 2018
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The Problem with Lawyers and the Constitution

On November 10, 2018, the Abbeville Institute hosted an event called The Revival of Nullification and Secession in Dallas, TX. The purpose was to educate people on the means by which we can escape the hatred and hostility that is consuming not only headlines, but our very souls. The population of these United States is split pretty much equally in…
Suzanne Sherman
December 5, 2018
Review Posts

The Man Who Made the Supreme Court

A review of John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court (Basic Books, 2018) by Richard Brookhiser John Marshall presents a curious problem for Southern history. How can a man, born and bred in the same State, who breathed the same air and shared the same blood with Thomas Jefferson, have been such an ardent nationalist? The same question…
Brion McClanahan
December 4, 2018
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Accuse-Convict-Remove

In the past few weeks two major interrelated events took place in these once United States of America that should serve as a warning for all Americans.  First, after the most contentious confirmation process for a Supreme Court justice in over 100 years, America has displayed its political-cultural division to the world and second, the ever-growing campaign of cultural genocide…
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What if We Listened to the Southern Founders?

Mel Bradford's outstanding tome A Better Guide Than Reason lifted that phrase from a speech John Dickinson made during the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. Dickinson worried that the delegates to what we now call the "Constitutional Convention" were insistent on crafting a document that would reinvent the government of the United States, something James Madison proposed with his now famous…
Brion McClanahan
October 10, 2018
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Calhoun, Not Webster, Was Right

Writing about the “Great Triumvirate” of Webster, Clay, and Calhoun during the third Nullification controversy in America of 1828-1832, and in particular about the Webster-Hayne debate of 1830, the late Prof. Merrill D. Peterson made this telling point:  “In the course of answering Hayne point by point, Webster unfolded a  conception of the Union and the Constitution that stood in stark…
W. Kirk Wood
September 26, 2018
Review Posts

The Legacy of Anti-Federalism

A review of The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 by Saul Cornell (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). The Anti-Federalists who opposed ratification of the Constitution have not fared well among American historians and political , scientists. Nothing reveals more starkly the near-complete disinterest in Anti-Federalist thought than a bibliographical check of books and essays on…
James McClellan
September 18, 2018
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Fractured Federalism

Proposals to turn national programs over to the states are abound in Washington. The failure of federal programs over the past 60 years demonstrates that centralized solutions to local problems are ineffective. Federalism—the constitutional distribution of power between the states and national government— is once again on the agenda. Lessons regarding centralization have been learned the hard way. For example,…
William J. Watkins
September 17, 2018
Blog

When the Yankees Shut Down the First Amendment

Constitutional Violation: Amendment One: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, precious relics of…
John M. Taylor
September 12, 2018
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Was the Louisiana Purchase Constitutional?

When the evolution of presidential power in early American history is discussed, it is sometimes alleged that the Louisiana Purchase was a particularly unconstitutional act and an example of presidential malfeasance. According to this line of reasoning, President Thomas Jefferson expanded the bounds of the presidency and betrayed his republican inclinations by favoring desired outcomes over executive restraint. Those that…
Dave Benner
September 10, 2018
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Upholding Voter ID in the South

The punitive “preclearance” regime under the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) of 1965, imposed on seven “covered” southern states and a number of counties in two others, was essentially invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.   The lifting of this incubus freed the previously “covered”  states and emboldened others to introduce legislation, notably a requirement…
Michael Arnheim
September 5, 2018
Review Posts

The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson

A review of The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson by David N. Mayer (University of Virginia Press, 1994). Thomas Jefferson’s reputation is that of a great thinker. He is popularly (and I believe wrongly, but that is a different matter) believed to have been the greatest thinker among American’s Revolutionaries. It is as a writer and as an unofficial pontifex…
Kevin R.C. Gutzman
September 4, 2018
Blog

Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee was a patriot, Anti-Federalist, and statesman from his “country,” Virginia.  He led the charge for independence in 1776 and was a powerful figure in Virginia political life.  He served one term as president of the Continental Congress and was elected a United States Senator from Virginia immediately after the ratification of the Constitution.  His role in the…
Brion McClanahan
July 2, 2018
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Why the South Needs the Electoral College

The Electoral College, a bulwark of federalism,  is under attack.  Straightforward abolition of the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment, which is most unlikely to be passed in the foreseeable future.  But the Electoral College now faces a more serious,  insidious threat from the so-called  National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC,) which purports to operate through the Electoral College…
Michael Arnheim
June 28, 2018
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First Amendment Establishment

The Phoenix, Arizona city council has been forced by self-declared “Satanists” to cease opening its meetings with prayer. The Arizona Republic reports the details of the events leading to this decision: “Followers of the Satanic Temple, a group promoting religious agnosticism, had been scheduled to give the prayer at the council's Feb. 17 meeting. News of the planned Satanic invocation…
Joe Wolverton
June 8, 2018
Review Posts

Killing the Incorporation Doctrine

A review of The 14th Amendment and the Incorporation Doctrine by David Benner (Minneapolis: Life and Liberty Publishing Group, 2017) Even though I have always been a strong advocate of states’ rights and sovereignty, and for safeguarding the federal system, the “incorporation doctrine” had always troubled me. What is meant by the “incorporation doctrine”? The application, by the federal courts,…
Ryan Walters
May 22, 2018
Review Posts

Founding Intentions

A review of Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution by M.E. Bradford (Georgia, 1993). Since the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, numberless books re-examining the document and the convention that made it have issued forth from commercial publishing houses and university presses. While some of them are excellent and make important contributions in the…
W. Kirk Wood
March 6, 2018
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Spencer Roane

“It has been our happiness to believe, that in the partition of powers between the general and State governments, the former possessed only such as were expressly granted, or passed therewith as necessary incidents, while all the residuary powers were reserved by the latter.” Spencer Roane Had one-time friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson not had such a high-profile and…
Joe Wolverton
February 26, 2018
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Sectionalism Returns

Recently Michael S. Greve of George Mason University Law School wrote an insightful article which contends that sectionalism has reared its head again. This new sectionalism is dividing the states along the lines of economic interests, which also happen to be aligning nicely with current ideological and partisan fault lines as well. Professor Greve rightly points out that the states…
John Devanny
January 29, 2018
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The Lies and Hypocrisy of the Civil War

More than 150 years after the Civil War, the nation is engulfed in controversy over statues of people who fought for the Confederacy. Many people want the statues taken down. The statues, they say, depict men who were slaveowners, slavery proponents, and traitors. Those who want the statues to stay in place are said to be racists. The feelings run…
Jacob G. Hornberger
January 24, 2018
Review Posts

Government by Judiciary

A review of Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment by Raoul Berger (Second Edition; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1997). Also available online. Raoul Berger was a legal historian who did not fear challenging academic consensus. His 1977 contrarian work Government by Judiciary argued that the Supreme Court radically departed from the original intent of the Fourteenth Amendment, citing…
Zachary Garris
January 9, 2018
Review Posts

Foundering Inventions

A review of Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution by Harry Jafffa, (Regnery, 1994). When Professor Harry Jaffa, in his new book Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution: A Disputed Question, refers to Abraham Lincoln as the “greatest interpreter of the Founding Fathers,” one must wonder whose Founding Fathers he has in mind. From the outset…
William J. Watkins
December 19, 2017
Blog

George Mason and Original Intent

Every fact bearing upon the character and service of the statesmen whose genius created a model form of human government should receive a warm greeting from those who are proud of the growth, progress, and prosperity of the republic. The harmonious working of the component parts which enter into the life of the country is to-day the result of the…
Fitzhugh Lee
December 11, 2017
Review Posts

Shredding the Constitution to Save the Union

A review of Liberty & Union: The Civil War Era and American Constitutionalism by Timothy S. Huebner (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016). Timothy S. Huebner’s new synthetic account of the Civil War and Reconstruction melds military history, political history, constitutional history, and black history in telling the tale of the most popular subject in American history. Published by one…
Kevin R.C. Gutzman
October 24, 2017
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Comparing Constitutions

Southern leaders had few complaints with the old Constitution under which they had lived. The heart of the conflict, they felt, was that the intent of the written law had been subverted by Northern sectionalists. Three major areas of conflict were over protective tariffs, the settlement of common territories, and the right to be secure in one’s property. Although tariffs…
James David Altman
September 18, 2017
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10 Objections to Nullification–Refuted

Nullification, also known as State interposition, is controversial because it challenges the Supreme Court’s monopoly on constitutional interpretation. The argument behind nullification is that the States—as parties to the compact that created the federal government—have a right to interpret the Constitution and veto acts where the federal government exceeds its delegated power. Genuine nullification involves a State’s declaration of unconstitutionality…
Zachary Garris
August 31, 2017
Review Posts

Reconsidering Luther Martin

A review of Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet, The Life of Luther Martin, by Bill Kauffman, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2008 "Happiness is preferable to the Splendour of a national Government"  Luther Martin to the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787, Kauffman at 41 This book takes no prisoners. Nor does it gloss the favored actors. It sides with Martin's stance at the…
Vito Mussomeli
August 29, 2017
Blog

Calhoun the Marxist?

Neo-conservatives can’t seem to make up their mind about the Confederacy. They all agree that the Confederacy represented everything evil about early America (which places them squarely in league with their intellectual brothers on the Left) but why they hate it presents the real conundrum. It borders on schizophrenia. Neo-conservative historian Victor Davis Hanson, for example, often rails against the…
Brion McClanahan
August 10, 2017
Review Posts

A Question of Sovereignty

Although the nation recently recognized the 150th anniversary of the end of the War of Northern Aggression, we are still plagued with questions about the legality of secession, issues and inquiries that unfortunately may never end. In exchanges on social media over the years, I have argued our principles as passionately as anyone can, while kindly, but at times very…
Ryan Walters
April 4, 2017
Review Posts

A Deep Devotion to the Constitution

According to the modern historical establishment, John C. Calhoun is the ultimate American villain. These esteemed historians think lofty assessments from previous decades failed to account for his glaring inconsistencies in regard to federal power, his advocacy for American imperialism, or his well-known defense of slavery and racism. Historians may have been critical of Calhoun's advancement of the "positive good"…
Brion McClanahan
March 14, 2017
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The Bonus Bill Veto and the Southern Tradition

On March 3, 1817, President James Madison vetoed the Bonus Bill of 1817 – a plan that called for the federal construction of various roads, bridges, and canals throughout the country. In a letter to Congress, the president explained his rationale. Out of all historical writings on constitutional interpretation, I believe it stands today as one of the most important.…
Dave Benner
March 8, 2017
Review Posts

The American President: From Cincinnatus to Caesar

The great body of the nation has no real interest in party. — James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat, 1838 The American presidency offers many fascinating questions for historical exploration. And by historical exploration I do not mean the all-too-common form of pseudohistory that puts the presidential office at the center of our expe­rience as a people. That scenario in…
Clyde Wilson
February 23, 2017
Review Posts

A Miscarriage of Justice

"Passion governs, and she never governs wisely,” wrote Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway in 1775. Wise words from the wisest of America’s Founders, yet ninety years later the very government that Franklin helped create disregarded his wisdom, fell prey to those very passions, and trampled the constitutional rights of its own citizens in order to help quench what seemed an…
Ryan Walters
December 5, 2016
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Save Federalism, Save the Electoral College

Discussing immigration and sanctuary cities, Bill O'Reilly began speaking of the coming clash of two "sovereignties", the States individually and the national government, but never got to finish his sentence. Speaker Gingrich interrupted to say, "there is one sovereignty" in America and that's the national government. "The Civil War settled the sovereignty question." Unfortunately, the Speaker is correct. We need…
Vito Mussomeli
December 1, 2016
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Why the Electoral College?

For the second time in the last 16 years it seems that we have a new President who did not win the national popular vote, although there are those who contend that once all the votes are counted, Trump could very well come out on top. But whether that’s the case or not the discussions have begun, especially by Democrats,…
Ryan Walters
November 18, 2016
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Cherry Picking James Madison

Legal “scholar” Akil Reed Amar made waves recently by arguing that a single comment from James Madison proves that the Electoral College had an intrinsic pro-slavery bent and was designed to perpetuate the institution. According to Amar, Madison suggested that Virginia’s stature would be hindered by a national popular vote for president, an idea proposed in the Philadelphia Convention by…
Dave Benner
November 15, 2016
Review Posts

John C. Calhoun: Anti-Imperialist

The mission of the Abbeville Institute, to redeem what is worthwhile in the Southern tradition, is an embattled one. The dominant powers in American discourse today have succeeded in confining the South to a dark little corner of story labeled “Slavery and Treason.” This is already governing the public sphere of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Such an approach not only…
Clyde Wilson
September 22, 2016
Review Posts

James Jackson of Georgia: Unknown Patriot Founder

Published in honor of James Jackson's birthday, September 21. Delivered in Savannah, in February, 1806, by the Author of this work. IT is announced to us, that on the 19th day of the last month, departed this life, at the City of Washington, after a long and painful illness, Major General James Jackson, one of our Senators in the Congress…
Thomas U.P. Charlton
September 21, 2016
Review Posts

Rethinking the War for the 21st Century

(13th Annual Gettysburg Banquet of the J.E.B. Stuart Camp, SCV, Philadelphia) ****How Should 21st Century Americans Think about the War for Southern Independence? **** We human beings are peculiar creatures, half angel and half animal, as someone has said. Alone among creatures we have a consciousness of ourselves, of our situation, and of our movement through time. We have language,…
Clyde Wilson
September 14, 2016
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Essential Reading: The Confederate Constitution of 1861

This review was first printed in Southern Partisan magazine in 1995. Marshall DeRosa: The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry into American Constitutionalism (University of Missouri Press, 1991). Let there be no doubt, my friends. Marshall DeRosa addresses a serious and important issue. He claims the struggle for American independence was renewed and, in a sense, reached a peak during…
Robert Martin Schaefer
September 8, 2016
Review Posts

Who Won the Webster-Hayne Debate of 1830?

The dominant historical opinion of the famous debate between Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Robert Young Hayne of South Carolina which took place in the United States Senate in 1830 has long been that Webster defeated Hayne both as an orator and a statesman. According to the legend, Webster managed in the course of the debate to isolate the South,…
H. A. Scott Trask
August 30, 2016
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Jefferson’s True Wall of Separation

The United States Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state,” nor does it require the general government to purge all religious influence from public institutions. To the contrary of modern conceptions, the document does not require that elected officials abstain from making decisions based on religious proclivities, nor does it call for government to intervene to…
Dave Benner
August 12, 2016
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The Compact Fact

Mainstream historians are both an incestuous and snarky bunch. They latch on to trends--fads really--and pull those trends like mules lugging a heavy cart to market (where they hope to sell books to their tens of fans). In time, the mules give out, but unlike the mule, these historians never realize they are whipped.  They hire more mules like them…
Brion McClanahan
August 4, 2016
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Musings of a Southern Antifederalist on the Presidential Election

The one consolation of the Antifederalist persuasion is telling everyone you meet “I told you so.”  Granted, this does not go down well in most circles, be they progressive, socialist, conservative, neo-conservative, constitutionalist, et al.  At best, some of these folk will agree that the Antifederalists were correct about the consolidation of power in the federal government, the excesses of…
John Devanny
July 8, 2016
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Nullification to Save the Constitution

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from an 1833 4th of July Oration delivered by Henry L. Pinckney and is available in its entirety at The James McClellan Library.  This feature of our website contains over 100 primary documents on State's Rights and federalism compiled by one of the founding members of the Abbeville Institute. ....But why is it that…
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The South Carolina Doctrine

Sir, South Carolina has not gone one step further than Mr. Jefferson himself was disposed to go in relation to the present subject of our present complaints; not a step further than the statesmen from New England were disposed to go under similar circumstances; no further than the senator from Massachusetts himself once considered as within "the limits of a…
Robert Y. Hayne
June 7, 2016
Review Posts

The Battle in Virginia Over the Constitution

This essay is reprinted in honor of Patrick Henry's birthday, May 29, from Moses Coit Tyler's Patrick Henry. The great convention at Philadelphia, after a session of four months, came to the end of its noble labors on the 17th of September, 1787. Washington, who had been not merely its presiding officer but its presiding genius, then hastened back to…
Moses Coit Tyler
May 30, 2016
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The Sovereign States

This essay is the introduction to Mr. Kilpatrick's The Sovereign States (Regnery, 1957). AMONG the more melancholy aspects of the genteel world we live in is a slow decline in the enjoyment that men once found in the combat of ideas, free and unrestrained. Competition of any sort, indeed, seems to be regarded these days, in our schools and elsewhere,…
James J. Kilpatrick
April 8, 2016
Review Posts

Charles Carroll of Carrollton: The Southern Irish Catholic Planter

A slightly different version of this essay is Chapter Eleven in Brion McClanahan, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers (Regnery, 2009).  This essay is offered as a Southern celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Charles Carroll of Carrollton has one of the more interesting stories of the Founding generation. He was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies…
Brion McClanahan
March 17, 2016
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Rethinkin’ Lincoln

The most frequent question I have received during promotion of my new book, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her, has been, “How can you say that Lincoln screwed up America?” After all, he is the man who saved the Union and who put slavery on the path to extinction. There should be a…
Brion McClanahan
February 26, 2016
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Scalia, the Constitution, and the Court

With the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, folks are writhing in fear over the prospect of Obama appointing a new SC Judge. "This", they say, "could be the most monumental appointment in history and could drastically change our political landscape" and this "is especially true with regards to how the 2nd Amendment is interpreted." This is all…
Carl Jones
February 25, 2016
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The Nationalist Myth

Dave Benner, Compact of the Republic: The League of the States and the Constitution (Life and Liberty Publishing, 2015). James Ronald Kennedy, Uncle Seth Fought the Yankees (Pelican Publishing, 2015). Jack Kerwick, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front (Stairway Press, 2015). One of the results of the Northern victory in 1865 was the codification of Lincolnian nationalism and its…
Brion McClanahan
February 19, 2016
Review Posts

The Lincoln Legacy: A Long View

This essay is a chapter in M.E. Bradford, Remembering Who We Are: Observations of a Southern Conservative (University of Georgia Press, 1985). With the time and manner of his death Abraham Lincoln, as leader of a Puritan people who had just won a great victory over "the forces of evil," was placed beyond the reach of ordinary historical inquiry and…
M.E. Bradford
February 18, 2016
Review Posts

Executive Usurpation

Mr. President, during the special session of the Senate in March last, when seven States had withdrawn, by the action of their people, from the Federal Union, disclaimed all allegiance to the Government, and organized a separate common government, I took occasion, before the public mind had become excited, to express fully my views of the structure of our Government,…
James A. Bayard
February 16, 2016
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James Iredell

One of the greatest legal minds of the founding generation was also one of the most reserved and unobtrusive. On many levels, he differed from his peers. Outspoken Federalist from New York, John Jay, became the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Prominent Virginia Governor Edmund Randolph was selected by George Washington to be the first Attorney…
Dave Benner
February 12, 2016
Review Posts

Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates

President Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address articulated his philosophical manifesto: “Peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.” These basic maxims were stressed repeatedly by Jefferson, who cherished a commercially free country that would avert the costly European wars of the past. Optimally, Jefferson hoped to avoid foreign conflicts completely. Jefferson had long championed the idea…
Dave Benner
January 26, 2016
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Jefferson Was Right

I am writing in response to the recently posted piece at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, entitled “History proves Thomas Jefferson was wrong (whew).” The author of this article drastically overstates Madison's role in the finalized Constitution. Madison desired a highly nationalistic government, with a national legislature that had general legislative authority, two houses of Congress both of which were apportioned…
Dave Benner
December 14, 2015
Review Posts

The Dark Side of Abraham Lincoln

By way of prologue, let me say that all of us like the Lincoln whose face appears on the penny. He is the Lincoln of myth: kindly, hum­ble, a man of sorrows who believes in malice toward none and char­ity toward all, who simply wants to preserve the Union so that we can all live together as one people. The…
Thomas Landess
December 10, 2015
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Remembering Hugh Williamson

One of the most unknown, yet substantial political leaders in the founding generation was a patriot named Hugh Williamson. In his life he surrounded himself with the most famous people in North America, and gradually became an instrumental leader who contributed to the cause of American independence. Serving the role of an intellectual erudite, military hero, and champion of republican…
Dave Benner
December 4, 2015
Clyde Wilson Library

Can the Republic Be Restored: Presidency

The American President began as Cincinnatus, a patriot called to the temporary service of his country (a republican confederation). The President ends as Caesar, a despot of almost unlimited power, presiding over a global empire. Like the Caesars, in some quarters the President is even worshiped as a god. Cincinnatus was called because of his proven ability and patriotism. Caesar…
Clyde Wilson
December 2, 2015
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A Long Farewell: The Southern Valedictories of 1860-1861

This essay was originally published in Southern Partisan Magazine, 1989. As we conclude bicentennial celebration of the drafting and adoption of the Constitution of the United States, it may be hoped that we have finally arrived at the proper moment for looking back and ap­preciating the importance of those even more heated discussions of the document which occurred in the…
M.E. Bradford
November 17, 2015
Review Posts

Sovereignty

The reader has perceived that the question concerning state powers, is condensed in the word sovereignty, and therefore any new ideas upon the subject, if to be found, would not be unedifying. A will to enact, and a power to execute, constitute its essence. Take away either, and it expires. The state governments and the federal government, are the monuments…
John Taylor of Caroline
November 10, 2015
Review Posts

Virginia First

I. THE name First given to the territory occupied by the present United States was Virginia. It was bestowed upon the Country by Elizabeth, greatest of English queens. The United States of America are mere words of description. They are not a name. The rightful and historic name of this great Republic is "Virginia." We must get back to it,…
Lyon G. Tyler
November 6, 2015
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From the Saddle

John Rutledge of South Carolina is one of the most important men of the founding generation, but he has been lost to mainstream history. He is politically incorrect (most in the founding generation are) and his positions on the nature of federal power do not comport with modern nationalist interpretations of government. At 25, Rutledge was sent by South Carolina…
Brion McClanahan
September 17, 2015
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Judah P. Benjamin: Able Statesman, Forgotten Patriot

If you showed the average American pictures of famous figures from Confederate States of America, there is a good chance many would recognize Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Pressed further, some may even identify Alexander Stephens. All were influential men, and important to the establishment and development of the Confederacy. However, none of them assisted the Confederate cause in…
Dave Benner
September 4, 2015
Review Posts

John C. Calhoun and “State’s Rights”

  The following is an abridged version of a chapter which will appear in the forthcoming, From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South  “Union among ourselves is not only necessary for our safety, but for the preservation of the common liberties and institutions of the whole confederacy. We constitute the balance wheel…
James Rutledge Roesch
August 25, 2015
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Secession For The North!

Two weeks ago, authorities combing through disgraced former IRS executive Lois Lerner's e-mails released a message she sent to a subordinate who had complained about a Texas Tea Party group. “Look my view is that Lincoln was our worst president not our best," she said.  "He should let the south go. We really do seem to have different mind sets.”  She…
Brion McClanahan
August 24, 2015
Review Posts

The Danger to Governments, Founded on Written Constitutions, of Being Gradually Revolutionized by the Construction Placed on the Provisions of the Constitution by Those Who Administer the Governments

This may be done by enlarging and extending the powers conferred by a liberal construction, based upon the supposed reason and spirit of its provisions, so as to meet emergencies not anticipated and specifically provided for; by using the powers granted in such a manner as to accomplish objects incidentally, which were not embraced in the Constitution, and could not,…
Oran Milo Roberts
July 14, 2015
Review Posts

Abel P. Upshur

This essay is published in honor of Abel P. Upshur's birthday, June 17, 1790. Today, States’ rights are remembered as a legalistic excuse for the preservation of slavery – a part of the past best forgotten. One historian scoffs at the notion of “loyalty to the South, Southern self-government, Southern culture, or states’ rights,” declaring that “slavery’s preservation was central…
Clyde Wilson Library

Goodbye to Gold and Glory

“The Father of Waters now flows unvexed to the sea,” Lincoln famously announced in July 1863. He was, according to a reporter, uncharacteristically “wearing a smile of supreme satisfaction” as he related the news of the surrender of Vicksburg. Like many popular sayings about the war of 1861–1865, Lincoln’s words rest on certain unexamined assumptions. Why had the flow of…
Clyde Wilson
June 16, 2015
Review Posts

The Old and the New South

Delivered as the commencement address for South Carolina College, 1887. What theme is most fitting for me present to the young men of the South, at this celebration of the South Carolina Col­lege ? What shall one, whose course is nearly run, say to those whose career is hardly begun ? In my retrospect I deeply sym­pathize with you in…
Review Posts

Lectures on the Constitution of the United States

Lecture I Having presented to you, young gentlemen, in some former lectures, my views of the character and principles of the several forms of government, and particularly of the representative and confederate, we will now proceed to a more accurate examination of our own political system, which has been professedly constructed upon the combined principles of popular representation and an…
Blog

The Tuckers of Virginia

If any American today were to listen to the nationalists in charge of either the political class or American education at large, they would get the sense that it is settled science that the American Union is comprised of one people held together by a national government with uncontested sovereignty over all matters foreign and domestic.  Certainly, States and local…
Brion McClanahan
June 8, 2015
Clyde Wilson Library

St. George Tucker

  St. George Tucker's "View of the Constitution of the United States" was the first extended, systematic commentary on the new constitution after it had been ratified by the people of the several states and amended by the Bill of Rights. Published by a distinguished patriot and jurist in 1803, it was for much of the first half of the…
Clyde Wilson
June 8, 2015
Clyde Wilson Library

A Southern Tradition: Restraining Bad Government

In talking about the Southern political tradition, it is most appropriate to point to the North Carolina Regulators and the Battle of Alamance Creek. This event was, in fact, only one of many such episodes in the colonial South--in the first 169 years of our history as Southerners before the first War of Independence. There was Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia…
Clyde Wilson
April 1, 2015
Review Posts

True American Whiggery: John Tyler and Abel P. Upshur

This piece is taken from Brion McClanahan and Clyde Wilson Forgotten Conservatives in American History. Two dates changed the course of American political history. On 13 September 1841, the Whigs expelled President John Tyler from their Party, outraged over his “betrayal” of what they considered true Whig political and economic principles. Shorty over two years later, on 28 February 1844,…
Brion McClanahan
March 31, 2015
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“His Accidency:” The Indispensable John Tyler

In honor of John Tyler's birthday (March 29), I thought it proper to include a excerpt from my new book, Compact of the Republic: The League of States and the Constitution, detailing the actions of a President I believe followed the Constitution strictly and has been cast aside by history. Called “His Accidency” by his political adversaries to refer to…
Dave Benner
March 30, 2015
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Lest We Forget Southern History

This year, 2015, marks the sesquicentennial of the end of a four-year war between American Southern States and Northern States that supported an aggressive federal government Southerners could not abide. In addition to the appalling loss of lives; thousands of severely wounded men; and war against civilians with massive destruction and theft of their property, this holocaust was unnecessary and…
R.E. Smith, Jr.
March 27, 2015
Review Posts

A Sympathy for Disunion

A Sympathy for Disunion "This, Mr. President, is not a government founded upon compact; it is founded upon the power of the people. They express in their name and their authority, "We the People do ordain and establish," etc, from their ratification alone it is to take its constitutional authenticity; without that it is no more than tabula rasa. "I…
Vito Mussomeli
February 24, 2015
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Luther Martin Revisited

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and as an eminent lawyer and statesman, Martin defended state sovereignty and the diffusion of political authority. He is usually identified as an Antifederalist. Martin was responsible for proposing several key components of the new government at the Convention, including the Electoral College, as well as earning a lasting reputation as a trial…
H. Lee Cheek, Jr.
February 20, 2015
Review Posts

The Cause of Jackson and Lee

  Delivered at the Blount County Courthouse, January 19, 2015. Robert E. Lee said “Everyone should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in the hope that it may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relation of campaigns and battles and generals or other individuals, but that which shows…
Carl Jones
January 21, 2015
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Faithless Government

Robert Barnwell Rhett, born on December 21, 1800, is remembered as one of the foremost "fire-eaters" of the South in the years leading to the War in 1861.  He championed nullification between 1830 and 1859 in order to preserve the Union, but had decided after the election of 1860 that the Union of the Founders had been dissolved and replaced…
Brion McClanahan
December 22, 2014
Review Posts

John Taylor and Construction

States’ rights may have been the defining force in Antebellum America, but modern, mainstream historians would have you believe that they were nothing more than a wicked creed cooked up by a few corrupt slaveowners. A review of a recent biography of John Taylor of Caroline referred to his “opprobrium” as the “premier states’ rights philosopher.” It would have been…
James Rutledge Roesch
December 19, 2014
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The Political Wisdom of John Taylor of Caroline

In honor of John Taylor's birthday, December 19. From Tyranny Unmasked: “The rival remedy for our troubles, so insignificant in the eyes of the Committee as to be wholly suppressed, although it has been often enforced by a multitude of able writers, and some patriotick statesmen; and although it was the basis of two federal administrations, which diffused more happiness and…
W. Kirk Wood
December 19, 2014
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Nathaniel Macon and the Origin of States’ Rights Conservatism

This essay was first published at Unz Review on November 23, 2014. Back in 1975 the Warren County Historical Association initiated a comprehensive project to study the life and legacy of Nathaniel Macon. As a part of this project, both archaeological and architectural studies of his old Buck Spring plantation, near the Roanoke River, were commissioned. Working with the professional…
Boyd Cathey
December 17, 2014
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Infanticide and Hobby Lobby

The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014) has uncovered a somewhat disturbing reality. Consider the following. In 1993 Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The law stipulates that government may not burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless the burden furthered a compelling governmental interest…
Marshall DeRosa
December 15, 2014
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The Revival of (Southern) Conservatism

M.E. Bradford said of Southern Conservatism that: “This conservatism is both historic and principled in not insisting on rights anterior to or separable from the context in which they originally emerged—what the Declaration of Independence says, if we read all of it and not just one sentence. No “city on a hill” to which we, as mortal men, will someday…
Carl Jones
December 12, 2014
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Forgotten Founder George Mason

This essay is excerpted from Brion McClanahan's The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers and is presented here in honor of Mason's birthday, December 11. If a list were constructed of the most important Virginians in American history, George Mason would appear near the top. His influence on public policy, the Revolution, and the Constitution was far greater than…
Brion McClanahan
December 11, 2014
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Republicanism and Liberty: The “Patrick Henry”/”Onslow” Debate

The fiercely contested, yet inconclusive election of 1824 set the stage for one of the great debates of American political history. According to Irving Bartlett, “the key to understanding Calhoun’s political behavior and thinking from 1825 through 1828 may be found in the peculiar conditions under which the election of 1824 occurred.”  The same can be said of John Quincy…
H. Lee Cheek, Jr.
December 5, 2014
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The Underlying Realities of Obama’s Amnesty

Focusing on the cultural, political and economic long-term consequences of President Obama’s amnesty executive action obscures placing attention on a more fundamental problem lurking in the shadows of American culture and politics. That problem can best be described as political cowardness. The primary source of this pathetic state of affairs stems from the socialization of the American people regarding race.…
Marshall DeRosa
November 24, 2014
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Understanding Jefferson and Sovereignty

The most fundamental elements of government are wealth and power. Their interplay is forever to aggregate to themselves at the expense of the governed. The structure of government comes from the culture and assent of the people. Where is Sovereignty? By reason of the Nature of our Creator, American sovereignty resides solely in people. It is not derived nor can…
Vito Mussomeli
November 14, 2014
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John Taylor on Federal and Constitutional Questions

Part II of a Five Part Series. Part I 1. Liberalism Taylor stood on liberal ground in holding that men were a mixture of good and evil. Self-interest was the only real constant in human action.43 He broke with archaic-republican ideas of mixed constitutions and social balance. His key idea was to divide power up so many ways, federally and…
Joseph R. Stromberg
October 14, 2014
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“The Sun, of the Southern States Would Set, Never to Rise Again.”

It is a strange fact of modern American culture that when looking at famous people in the political realm of American history, far more often than not the more statist a historical figure is, the more likely he will be to receive the most attention and celebrity. Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and, of course, Abraham Lincoln, for instance-…
Carl Jones
October 6, 2014
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A National or Federal Government

Part IV of a four part series. Part I, Part II, Part III. I come now to urge my objection to the jurisdiction of the court. It goes on the ground, that it is not competent to the general government, to usurp rights reserved to the States, nor for its courts to adjudicate them away. It is bottomed upon the…
Spencer Roane
September 15, 2014
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On Implied Powers and the Bank of the United States

Part III of a Four Part Series by the Legal Scholar Spencer Roane written in 1819. Part I and Part II. I trust I have shown by the preceding detail, that the words "necessary and proper," contained in the Constitution, were tautologous and redundant, and carried nothing more to the general government than was conveyed by the general grant of…
Spencer Roane
September 8, 2014
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On Granted Powers

To the Editor of the Enquirer: According to the regular course of legal proceedings I ought, in the first place, to urge my plea in abatement to the jurisdiction of the court. As, however, we are not now in a court of justice, and such a course might imply some want of confidence in the merits of my cause, I…
Spencer Roane
September 1, 2014
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Rights of the States and of the People

This is Part I of four letters that originally appeared in the Richmond Enquirer in 1819 under the nom de plume Hampden. They could have been written yesterday. To the Editor of the Enquirer: By means of a letter to you, sir, I beg leave to address my fellow citizens. I address them on a momentous subject. I address them…
Spencer Roane
August 21, 2014
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John C. Calhoun: Nullification, Secession, Constitution

"The confederation has been formed by the free will of the states. If today one of these very states wanted to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be quite difficult to prove that it could not do so. The federal government, in order to combat it, would not rely in a clear way on either force or law."…
Marco Bassani
August 8, 2014
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The Real Constitution

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…
Clyde Wilson
August 7, 2014
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State’s Rights Vol. 2: St. George Tucker’s Views on the Constitution

To most historians, states’ rights are nothing more than a treasonous rationale for chattel slavery. One historian, in a purportedly definitive history of “disunion,” takes the incredible liberty of having prominent Fire-Eater Robert B. Rhett curse Thomas Jefferson (“St. Thomas”) in his head, along with “inalienable rights,” “rights of revolution,” and “the principles of 1776,” claiming “the South had revolted…
Clyde Wilson Library

John Taylor’s Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, Part 2

We now approach the heart of Taylor's Inquiry: recent times had created a new type of privileged order exercising dominion in a new way. This was the “paper and patronage aristocracy,” a form of government that had been perfected by England. John Adams had completely failed to notice the new type of regime (although, in fact, he actually wrote most…
Clyde Wilson
June 26, 2014
Clyde Wilson Library

John Taylor’s Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, Part 1

John Taylor (1753–1824) of Caroline County, Virginia, is the most important, profound, prophetic and neglected American political thinker of the Revolution and early national period. To explore his thinking is, for a twenty-first century American, an adventure in time travel. We return home amazed—much enlightened about our forefathers' world and with new perspectives on our own. Taylor is the Jeffersonians’…
Clyde Wilson
June 19, 2014
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The Doctrine of State’s Rights

This piece originally appeared in the North American Review, February 1890. To DO justice to the motives which actuated the soldiers of the Confederacy, it is needful that the cause for which they fought should be fairly understood; for no degree of skill, valor, and devotion can sanctify service in an unrighteous cause. We revere the memory of Washington, not…
Jefferson Davis
June 6, 2014
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Farewell

Delivered by Jefferson Davis on 21 January 1861 before leaving the United States Senate. I rise, Mr. President, for the purpose of announcing to the Senate that I have satisfactory evidence that the State of Mississippi, by a solemn ordinance of her people in convention assembled, has declared her separation from the United States. Under these circumstances, of course my…
Jefferson Davis
June 4, 2014
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“Liberty Ought to be the Direct End of Your Government”

One of the greatest American statesmen, Patrick Henry, was born on this day (May 29) in 1736. Jefferson once said that Henry single-handedly delivered Virginia to the cause of independence. He also said that Henry was the laziest reader he knew, and modern critics consider Henry to have been nothing more than a sliver-tongued, hayseed demagogue. Certainly, he did not…
Brion McClanahan
May 29, 2014
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“Liberty Ought to be the Direct End of Your Government”

One of the greatest American statesmen, Patrick Henry, was born on this day (May 29) in 1736. Jefferson once said that Henry single-handedly delivered Virginia to the cause of independence. He also said that Henry was the laziest reader he knew, and modern critics consider Henry to have been nothing more than a sliver-tongued, hayseed demagogue. Certainly, he did not…
Brion McClanahan
May 29, 2014
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A Bostonian on the Causes of the War, Part III

Part III from a section of Dr. Scott Trask's work in progress, Copperheads and Conservatives. Part I. Part II. Warnings of the Wrath to Come Southerners were by no means alone in deprecating the antislavery agitation. The northern anti-abolition movement was far stronger than the movement it opposed. Many northern leaders accurately forecast the consequences of agitation. In his annual…
H. A. Scott Trask
May 13, 2014
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A Bostonian on the Causes of the War, Part II

Part II from a section of Dr. Scott Trask's work in progress, Copperheads and Conservatives. Part I. Historical Survey Lunt believed that the celebrated Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the territories north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, had been a mistake. It was not because he believed slavery could have been profitably introduced…
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A Bostonian on the Causes of the War, Part I

Part I from a section of Dr. Scott Trask's work in progress, Copperheads and Conservatives. Academic historians continue to regard their work as one of scientific objectivity, one of the corollaries being that the more removed the historian is from the events he or she describes the more reliable the finished work. John Lukacs has argued against such dogma. He…
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The Cliven Bundy Saga: How Congress Snatched The Power To Claim Lands

You have to hand it to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). His soft-spoken demeanor and reputation for decorum continue to survive his ad-hominem vitriol like the following, said about rancher, constituent and grandfather Cliven Bundy and friends. “They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists.” In case you didn’t hear that bromide the first time, Reid doubled down. “I repeat: what…
Mike Church
April 29, 2014
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Reconstruction…of a Football Team?

In my article from last week entitled “1865 and Modern Relevance” I asserted that the outcome of the War for Southern Independence was as relevant today as it was 150 years ago. Just a few days after publication an incident involving Clemson University proved this point. A group of atheists calling itself the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” has leveled allegations…
Carl Jones
April 28, 2014
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James Monroe and the Principles of ’76

James Monroe was born today (April 28) in 1757. He is one of the more misunderstood and maligned Presidents of the United States. Historians typically rank him as no better than "average." This is unjust and an indictment of the historical profession. Monroe, they suggest, lacked leadership and energy in the executive office. He should have been more like Lincoln…
Brion McClanahan
April 28, 2014
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When Doing Nothing is the Right Thing to Do

In the present judgment of history—or at least those who are counted worthy to opine on that subject—two American presidents occupy positions among the lowest and the highest with regard to their place in the nation’s pantheon of leaders. The interesting thing is that the one followed the other into office which means that the performance of their duties in…
Valerie Protopapas
April 22, 2014
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1865 and Modern Relevance

"I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy....Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more…
Carl Jones
April 16, 2014
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Illegal, Unconstitutional, and Unjust

The historian Andrew C. McLaughlin in 1932 wrote that the British imperial system was characterized “by diversification and not by centralization....The empire of the mid-eighteenth century was a diversified empire” with power “actually distributed and exercised by various governments.” British colonies, including Ireland, “had long existed” as “bodies, corporate, constituent members of the Empire,” each with its own constitution and…
Brion McClanahan
April 15, 2014
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James Iredell: Neglected Southern Federalist

Born in Lewes, England (October 5, 1751), Iredell spent his childhood in Bristol. The eldest of five sons born to Francis and Margaret McCulloh Iredell, he was forced to leave school after his father suffered a debilitating stroke in 1766. With the assistance of relatives, Iredell came to America in 1768 to accept an appointment as Comptroller of the Customs…
H. Lee Cheek, Jr.
April 15, 2014
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State Sovereignty and Centralism in 19th-Century Argentina

Introduction: Centers and Peripheries A look at the early history of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata -- a political structure ancestral (partly) to the modern-day Argentine nation-state -- reveals many interesting parallels with our own experience in the United States. The European empires’ settler colonies in the New World had much in common: their European-derived populations…
Joseph R. Stromberg
April 14, 2014
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Constitutional Deists

According to Deist belief, God does not get involved in the affairs of mankind. He built the celestial clock, wound up the spring and then walked away. There is no point in praying, since the Almighty is not listening. He apparently has other fish to fry. We are left to our own devices. Some look at the system of government…
Jonathan White
April 8, 2014