the way, Southerners acquired a certain reputation for
belligerent behavior and readiness for war. Charlie
Daniels' "In America" captures this mood,
which owes a lot to the unthinking patriotism of Andrew
Jackson's movement . I'm very fond of Daniels' music
but I'm not keen on seeing him become Secretary of State
any time soon.
frontier folk came mainly from the Celtic parts of the
British Isles. This makes them, I guess, the original
"fringe" element. They believed in instant
self-defense and took unkindly to perceived insults.
One writer has done a whole book exculpating a present-day
New York murderer on the grounds that this fellow's
touchy sense of honor imposed on his ancestors by
those mean white folks in South Carolina made him
do it. There may be some little truth there, but the
alternative toward which we daily stumble a society
with no code of honor at all has some drawbacks of
its own. Los Angeles comes to mind.
predominance in the Old (pre-1861) Army and in U.S.
armed forces in this century adds to the Southern reputation
for militarism. Certainly, the South did not afford
a mass base for anti-interventionism as did the Midwest
down to the Cold War. Nor was the South all that blessed
with strict pacifists. On the other hand, there were
always individual Southerners versed in republican theory
and classical liberalism, who stood against war and
empire. Some of the academic sheep began bleating, by
the 1960s, about a terrible increase in Southern "isolationism"
which set in after 1945. This if true
would be a good thing.
REPUBLICANS ON EMPIRE: JOHN RANDOLPH
of the most "hard-core" Southern opponents
of empire and war was the colorful "half-mad"
some say John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833).
This Congressman and planter saw Virginia as his country.
The South came next, with the Union a distant third.
Randolph's view, the happiness of Virginia, the South,
and the Union did not rest on borrowing trouble with
an activist foreign policy. In the debate on Gregg's
motion (March 1806), he broke with his own party, the
Jeffersonian Republicans, who seemed bent on involving
America in war with Britain, which was embattled, worldwide,
with revolutionary France. He said: "this Government
was not instituted for the purposes of offensive war.
No it was framed
for the common defence
and the general welfare, which are inconsistent with
offensive war. I call that offensive which goes out
of our jurisdiction and limits for the attainment or
protection of objects not within those limits and that
. I fear if you go into a foreign
war for a circuitous, unfair foreign trade, you will
come out without your Constitution. Have you not contractors
enough in this House? Or do you want to be overrun and
devoured by commissaries and all the vermin of contract?"
Mad Jack would have loved our late 20th-century Military-Industrial-University
the war-hawks had gotten their war (1812), Randolph
found himself allied with his erstwhile enemies, the
New England Federalists, and widely reviled in the South.
In a letter to his constituents, he asked, "My
friends, do you expect to find those who are now loudest
in the clamor for war, foremost in the ranks of battle?
Or, is the honor of this nation indissolubly connected
with the political reputation of a few individuals,
who tell you they have gone too far to recede,
and that you must pay, with your ruin, the price
of their consistency?" This is a good question
in 1812 or 1999. It mostly goes unanswered.
1812 warhawks gave plausible reasons, at least, for
their war, like annexing Canada (still not annexed as
yet) and saving U.S. ocean-borne commerce. Oddly, the
states most interested in the carrying trade
New England opposed the war and toyed with secession
in protest. But what of ideologically-driven, "humanitarian"
interventions of the recent type? Randolph's position
emerged in his speech on the Greek cause (January 24,
1824), our earliest proposed Balkan adventure. That
Yankee gasbag, Daniel Webster, had called for sending
U.S. agents to Greece to help the Greek struggle for
independence from our future heroic NATO allies, the
terms recalling Sydney Smith's Letter to Lady Grey,
Randolph asked, "Are we, Sir, to go on a crusade,
in another hemisphere, for the propagation of two objects
as dear and delightful to my heart as to that of any
gentleman in this, or in any other assembly Liberty
and Religion and, in the name of those Holy words by this powerful spell, is this nation to be conjured
and beguiled out of the high way of Heaven out of
its present comparatively happy state, into all the
disastrous conflicts arising from the policy of European
Powers, with all the consequences which flow from them?"
likened this madness to the Jacobin policy of spreading
the French revolution by force what Edvard Kardelj
has called "social Bonapartism." With great
political incorrectness, he added that he could think
of only one other such aggressive armed doctrine, that
of to put it delicately for us moderns
the third great world religion. That aside, Randolph
went on to ridicule the resolution further: "Not
satisfied with attempting to support the Greeks, one
world, like that of Pyrrhus or Alexander, is not sufficient
for us. We have yet another world for exploits: we are
to operate in a country distant from us eighty degrees
of latitude, and only accessible by a circumnavigation
of the globe, and to subdue which we must cover the
Pacific with our ships, and the tops of the Andes with
our soldiers. Do gentlemen seriously reflect on the
work they have cut out for us? Why, Sir, these projects
of ambition surpass those of Bonaparte himself!"1
we who live in more enlightened times, in which there
are no gentlemen and damned little reflection either,
can see that such projects are dead-easy, such ambitions
entirely normal. Just ask the present recumbents
I'm sorry, incumbents and their likely successors
of either party. It's bad form, these days, to laugh
at the unbridled ambitions of the One Remaining Superpower.
Indeed, if you say "superpower" aloud for
about three minutes, you will find that its rhythm has
a very calming effect somewhat like chanting "Om"
which may explain something. An early republican
like Randolph and slaveholder, surely I haven't
forgotten to mention slavery? could hardly have
foreseen our present leaders' worldwide moral achievements,
backed up by weapons of sublime, if massive destructive.
the Nullification Crisis, Randolph, who disliked John
C. Calhoun and had little faith in his particular doctrines,
expressed a wish to be strapped to his horse so as to
help the South Carolinians resist federal invasion,
if Andrew Jackson really chose to cement the fraternal
bonds of union and collect the tariff in that fashion.
REPUBLICANS ON EMPIRE: W. W. BOYCE
brings me to South Carolinian William Waters Boyce,
who served in both the U.S. and Confederate Congresses.
In both Houses, Boyce's chief concern was preserving
republican liberty against centralized and arbitrary
government. The domestic consequences of imperial foreign
policy loomed large in his view of things.
in January 1855 of the proposed annexation of Cuba that hardy perennial Boyce said, "We are now
in the position of Russia, with all her advantages;
we are the Russia of the western continent; we have
a vast territory; we are compact and invulnerable, defiant
of the world in arms. Shall we weaken our position by
the acquisition of maritime colonies?"
thought not. To keep Cuba we would need a larger navy
and the taxpayers were already burdened enough. Boyce's
reservations apply with even more force to U.S. seizure
of the Philippines in 1898. Cuba, at least, was nearby.
larger question raised by Cuban annexation was empire.
Boyce put it thus: "We may extend our dominion
over the whole continent, our navies may ride triumphant
on every sea, our name may be the terror of Kings, our
decrees the destinies of nations, but be assured it
will be at the price our of free institutions. [my
emphasis] I know not how it may be with others, but
for my own part, I would not pay this price for all
the power and all the glory that ever clustered around
all the banners and all the eagles emblazoned in the
pantheon of history."2
second Confederate Congressional career found him
a staunch critic of Jefferson Davis and the seeming
centralizers in Richmond. With Vice President Alexander
H. Stephens, Linton Stephens, Governor Joe Brown of
Georgia, and Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina,
Boyce was part of a Confederate opposition whose position,
at times, approached "revolutionary defeatism."
They thought it better if it came to that to lose
the war than to lose republican liberties to a new despotism
CASSANDRAS AND BANQUO'S GHOSTS
out there in the much-mooted "mainstream,"
it might be asked, "Is that all you guys have?
Endless warnings that liberty is about to be lost? Can't
you see liberty all around you?" Well, frankly,
someone foretells the eventual end of republican
liberty as the outcome of imperial policy, he is not
required to give us a "sell-by" date, unless
he scrawls his warnings on a milk carton. That someone
a hundred years ago spotted the trend does not mean
he expected to see all the evils realized in his own
lifetime. We, on the other hand, are living with
most of those eventualities, and are in a position to
weigh the damage. We are beginning to spell things out
in detail. Empire and its sometime ally, socialism,
have been whittling away at liberty all through this
century and if it's rude to mention it, the advice given
those who "don't like Hank Williams" surely
notion that we are "free" in any way that
classical liberals and republicans could have understood,
is a bad joke. Perhaps we have those "four freedoms"
of FDR's. Maybe we should gladden our hearts over the
freedom to vote, now and then, for look-alike hacks
who oversee our real managers and keepers in the standing
army of bureaucrats. Or possibly it's the zillion or
so welfare "rights" spawned since the sixties.
Between FDR's four freedoms and the zillion new-fangled
ones (which mostly ratify the collapse of real communities,
real localities, and even real "villages"),
some of us would rather have the 18th-century short-list
sometimes summed up as the Rights of Englishmen. Failing
that, we intend to highlight assaults on those rights
now and then. I'm afraid we shall have to name names
on occasion, rather than cosmic "social forces."
Blaming abstract forces relieves the hacks of all responsibility
and allows them to recommend for the thousandth
time their pal Big Government as the only countervailing
power big enough to reign in the unseen, otherworldly
perpetrators. We've heard that one before.
FURTHER WORD FROM W.W. BOYCE
shall let Congressman W. W. Boyce have the last word:
"Let us turn from the line of vulgar conquerors
to the fathers of the Republic; let us learn from them,
that the truest patriotism is the preservation of our
institutions, the truest wisdom is moderation. In short,
let our history be not the history of our imagination,
but the history of our common sense. By this course
we may not vaunt so many statues, so many triumphal
arches, so many trophies of victory, and boundless dominion,
but we shall have what is more glorious than these,
we shall have our institutions preserved; we shall have
the conquests of peace; the mighty march of civilization;
Christianity working out, unimpeded, her Divine mission;
these will be our statues; these our triumphal arches;
these the trophies of our victories; and they will be
such as no nation before us have ever had."2
Randolph quoted in Russell Kirk, John
Randolph of Roanoke (Chicago, 1964), pp. 273,
203, 326-27, and 332-33.
 Quotes found in W. W. Boyce, "The Annexation
of Cuba" in Philip S. Foner and Richard C. Winchester,
Anti-Imperialist Reader (New York, 1984), pp.
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