09/07/2024 lewrockwell.com  9min 🇬🇧 #252202

Three American Declarations

By  Thomas DiLorenzo

July 9, 2024

Three of the most important American political declarations are the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson Davis's inaugural address, and Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. The first was a declaration of secession from the British empire. The second was a declaration of secession from the Washington, D.C empire. The third was a declaration of non-independence, ever, under any circumstances, from the D.C. empire - or else.

The legitimate purpose of government, Jefferson famously wrote in the Declaration, was to secure God-given unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whenever government becomes "destructive of these ends," then "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government..." It is "the Right of the People" to secede.

After the long listing of the "train of abuses" by the government of King George III, Jefferson reminded the world that it was each individual colony or state, joining in a confederacy of united states, that was seceding from the British empire. The representatives of the individual states, he wrote, assembled to "publish and declare" that "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown... and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which independent States may of right do." The individual, free and independent "States," in the plural, had rights to do all of these things, said Jefferson. The individual American states were thought to be free and independent in the same sense that France and England were free and independent states.

Twenty-seven years later, in response to a query by John Breckinridge, who had served as Jefferson's attorney general, about the burgeoning New England Federalist secession movement Jefferson wrote that if there was to be a "separation" into two confederacies, "God bless them both, & keep them in the union if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better." To Thomas Jefferson secession was an absolute right in the voluntary union of the united states of America.

Jefferson Davis's first inaugural address was delivered in Montgomery, Alabama on February 18, 1861. He started out by quoting Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and its admonition that government's just powers are derived from the consent of the governed, and that when the governed decide that their government has failed to protect their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then it is their duty to abolish that government and replace it with a new one. In his words:

"[W]hen, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, [government] had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot-box declared that so far as they were concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist. In this they [the sovereign states] merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable... they, as sovereigns, were the final judges..."

The Confederate constitution outlawed protectionist tariffs altogether (allowing for a modest "revenue tariff" of 10% or so on average) while the Northern states wanted a heavily protectionist tariff averaging 50-60 percent. Northern newspapers associated with the Republican party had been calling for the bombardment of Southern ports long before the war with the understanding that free trade in the South and hyper protectionism in the North would cause all the trade of the world to leave the Northern ports for the Southern ones. Jefferson Davis then addressed this issue: "An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit."

However, "If... passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those [Northern] States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth. We have entered upon the career of independence..." Recognizing that the Republican party was hell bent on using miliary force to enforce its agenda of protectionism, Jefferson Davis here declared that the South would defend itself against such plunder and the North's "lust" for political domination. Davis did not say a single word about slavery in his inaugural address.

Lincoln also addressed the all-important tariff issue in his first inaugural address two weeks later on March 4, 1861 in a most dramatic way. "[T]here needs to be no bloodshed or violence," he warned, "and there shall be none unless it is forced upon the national authority" (emphasis added). And what would force the "national authority" to resort to "bloodshed" and "violence"? Failure to collect the new tariff tax that had just been more than doubled two days earlier, from an average of 15% to 32%. "The power confided in me," Lincoln said, included the power "to collect the duties and imposts" (i.e. tariffs), "but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." This was a clear declaration that there would be bloodshed, violence, invasion, and force of any state that refused to send tariff revenue to Washington, D.C. And of course the Confederate states, which had just seceded, had no intention of continuing to send tariff revenue to Washington, D.C. any more than they would send tariff revenue to London or any other country's capital.

Flatly repudiating the Declaration of Independence and the Jeffersonian principle of government's just powers being derived from the consent of the governed, Lincoln invented on the spot a new theory of the American founding by saying that "[N]o State... can lawfully get out of the Union." The union, Lincoln said, was what Murray Rothbard called a "Venus flytrap" from which there could never be any escape, ever, for any reason. This sounds more like the compulsory Soviet Union held together by violence than the voluntary American union of the founding fathers.

Lincoln's first inaugural address was the most powerful defense of slavery ever made by an American president. After three short introductory paragraphs he announced: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." He then quotes the Republican party platform of 1860 as saying: "Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions [that is, slavery]. .. is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend..." "I now reiterate these sentiments," Lincoln said. (The U.S. Congress's 1861 War Aims Resolution, known as the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution, said the same thing - that the war itself had nothing to do with slavery but was being waged to "save the union.").

In the next paragraph Lincoln pledged his everlasting support for the Fugitive Slave Act which compelled Northerners to capture runaway slaves and return them to their owners. As a lawyer Lincoln represented slave owners in court seeking to round up their runaway slaves but never a runaway slave. He famously appeared in court with shackles, implying that he would make sure that the slave was returned to his owner. (He also sold the slaves that his wife inherited rather than freeing them - unlike Robert E. Lee who in 1862 freed the slaves his wife inherited in accordance with his father-in-law's will). The Fugitive Slave Act was in fact enforced in Washington, D.C. during the Lincoln administration.

Near the end of his first inaugural address Lincoln told what is probably his biggest political lie. "I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution - which amendment, however, I have not seen - has passed Congress, to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, [slavery] including that of persons held to service... holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable" (emphasis added).  Team of Rivals: The Po... Best Price: $7.00 (as of 06:06 UTC - Details)

The lie was Lincoln's claim that he had not seen the amendment, known as the Corwin Amendment, named after Ohio Congressman Thomas Corwin. In her book Team of Rivals Doris Kearns-Goodwin documented with primary sources that it was Lincoln himself who instructed William Seward to get the amendment through the U.S. Senate prior to the inauguration, which he did. Besides, who could believe that in 1861 an amendment had passed the House and Senate to cement slavery in place constitutionally forever, and the president had never seen it or asked to see it?! Moreover, Illinois was one of the states that ratified the Corwin Amendment. On March 3, 1861 Lincoln was still the leader of the Illinois Republican party, the party that mustered the votes to get the amendment ratified. The notion that Lincoln did not see the Corwin Amendment, which was modeled virtually verbatim after the Republican party platform of 1860, is not believable.

The Corwin Amendment said that "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." It was a clone of the Republican party platform of 1860, in other words, which Lincoln certainly supported. The amendment had passed the House and Senate and was ratified by Illinois ("Land of Lincoln"), Ohio, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Kentucky before the war commenced.

In summary, the first two declarations mentioned here were Jeffersonian declarations based on the notion that governments' just powers are derived from the consent of the governed and that citizens are and should be the masters rather than the servants of their own governments. That is the American way. Lincoln's first inaugural address, on the other hand, sounds more like the French or Russian revolutions declaring an all-powerful central government from which there could never be any opposition or escape, complete with very credible threats of violence, bloodshed, invasion, and force (Lincoln's own words). Hence was the imperialistic American warfare state born, spending the next twenty-five years waging a war of genocide against the Plains Indians "to make way for the railroads," in the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman.

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