Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Americans Can Learn Today From The Politics Of Confederate Secession

Via Matthew
Needless to say, by no means all VDARE.com readers are Confederate sympathizers, or think that partition of the U.S. along demographic lines is desirable or inevitable—although this dark expectation is more widespread among Americans than you’d expect from MSM reporting.

It’s crucial to note, however, that this article by "Generation 5" is ultimately not about any specific political situation, but an analysis of the different personality types involved in creating any political change—making the key point that all of them necessary. Personally, I guess I’m a “Rhetorical Radical”—I am temperamentally inclined to what I’ve called the “Thick End of the Wedge Theory”. I gather that “Generation 5” doesn’t think that Rhetorical Radicals get much credit. Probably that means I won't get invited to the signing of the Immigration Moratorium & American Jobs Protection Act. Hey ho—I'm sure I'll be able to ask my old friend David Frum how it went!]

This year I have read a book that has changed some of my thinking on politics: The Road to Disunion, Vol. II: Secessionists Triumphant imageby William W. Freehling. This book is particularly valuable because it attempts to showcase the real-time experience and success of an explicitly ethnonationalist and conservative revolution on American soil.

For most of the 1850s, the secessionists were a largely marginalized group. Most of the South was enjoying extreme economic success due to King Cotton, and the hardcore secessionists, mostly concentrated in South Carolina, were often seen as an embarrassment, extremists who made mountains out of molehills and got in the way of making money.

Though secessionists were the first to warn their fellow Southerners of the logical implications of abolitionist rhetoric, their concerns were seen as irrelevant because both of the national parties, the Whigs and Democrats, had Southern members who were able to reach acceptable compromises with their Northern brethren.

Similarly, contemporary ethnonationalists have been warning of the demographic collapse of the United States for thirty years or more, and of the noxious result for white America when our ideology of punitive equality is extended to a black and brown majority. But most Americans, like most ante-bellum Southerners, have ignored our warning. The typical person simply does not think about much beyond the next year or so.

In most times and places, not thinking is an “adaptive strategy”—but overused strategies are subject to sudden realignments. Like ecological die-offs, political revolutions are never seen in advance by those who are its victims.

The Southern secessionists can be divided, in my view, into four main groups:

1. Rhetorical Radicals—the hard core;

2. the Reformed Radicals;

3. the Revolutionary Insiders; and finally

4. the Opportunists.

Rhetorical Radicals—The hard core

The hard core of secessionists arose from the unique culture of South Carolina. As early America’s most aristocratic state, South Carolina despised the system of party politics. Its legislature only allowed men of significant property to hold office, and it was the only state where the legislature took the prerogative of selecting the governor and the recipient of the state’s electoral votes for president.

Politicians in South Carolina were typically chosen by the state’s elites based mostly on a person’s character and family, and a key trait desired was a general disinterest in politics. Competitive races were rare outside of the upcountry, and the state usually declined to send representatives to national party conventions.

This aristocratic mindset was wounded by the realities of market forces in the mid-1800s. South Carolina’s soil was depleted, and the profitability of its operations declined as the capital costs of slaves went up due to demand from Deep South cotton planters. Thus South Carolina became the perfect incubator for a conservative revolution: a deeply conservative elite with wounded pride.

The nullification crisis exemplified this mindset. South Carolinians were barely able to come to grips with a popularly-elected president, Andrew Jackson, who was willing to make compromises on principles to some extent to achieve political ends. The nullification crisis further humiliated and radicalized South Carolina, by bringing into focus the state’s relative weakness despite its aristocratic contempt for the rest of the country.

Out of the nullification crisis rose the hardcore secessionists, most notably Robert Barnwell Rhett. Rhett’s rhetoric was constant during this period, demanding secession at each Northern flouting of Southern honor. He was a rhetorical radical in every sense of the word. A typical quote from Rhett:

“Let it be that I am a Traitor. The word has no terrors for me…I have been born of traitors, but, thank God, they have been Traitors in the great cause of liberty, fighting against tyranny and oppression. Such treason will ever be mine whilst true to my lineage. No, No, my friends! Smaller States before us struggled successfully, for their independence, and freedom against far greater odds; and if it must be, we can make one long, last, desperate struggle, for our rights and honor, ere the black pall of tyranny is stretched over the bier of our dead liberties. To meet death a little sooner or a little later, can be of consequence to very few of us. “

Robert Barnwell Rhett: Father of Secession, by Laura A. White (1931) p.109

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