by: Peter Heck
The South is rising again. Before I go any further, let me clarify. Sadly, too many in our country possess the superficial and ignorant perception that the only impetus behind southern secession was to perpetuate the abhorrent practice of slavery. Therefore, when they hear such a phrase, their kneejerk reaction tells them this must be about race. I assure you, it’s not.
When the North invaded the South during the 1860s, it was to deny the southern states the ultimate expression of their sovereignty – the ability to withdraw from a union they had voluntarily joined. Interestingly, secession was a right that the northern New England states had contemplated using themselves in the 1804 Hartford Convention when they felt the national government had become too oppressive.
Nevertheless, Lincoln’s views on government were clearly expressed in his famous “House Divided” speech when he articulated to the south that he would not allow different states to take different sides on different issues. We would, “become all one thing, or all the other.” With all due respect to Mr. Lincoln, this was a radical departure from the Founders’ view of federalism and good government. And as a consequence, things got really ugly.
So what does any of this have to do with our current situation? As it turns out, more than you might think. For instance, in light of our current situation, consider the following words:
“Who, then, Mr. President, are the true friends of the Union? Those who would confine the federal government strictly within the limits prescribed by the constitution; who would preserve to the states and the people all powers not expressly delegated; who would make this a federal and not a national Union…And who are its enemies? Those who are in favor of consolidation; who are constantly stealing power from the states, and adding strength to the federal government; who, assuming an unwarrantable jurisdiction over the states and the people, undertake to regulate the whole industry and capital of the country.”
Sounds like something you just heard on C-SPAN from Mike Pence, Jim DeMint, or Michael Steele, doesn’t it?
In actuality, those were the words of the famous South Carolina Senator Robert Hayne in his epic debate with Senator Daniel Webster in 1830. To those who say that history doesn’t repeat itself, all evidence to the contrary. For as Americans have lined up and taken sides in the current dispute over the nationalizing of healthcare (the equivalent of 1/6 of the country’s economy), it’s important for us to note that this is but another chapter in the longest standing argument in American history.