Monday, April 16, 2012

A Southern Republic and a Northern Democracy (1863)

Via Occidental Dissent

Frank A. Alfriend’s A Southern Republic and a Northern Democracy appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond in May 1863:

“It is no disparagement of the wisdom and patriotism of our forefathers, for us who have survived the wreck of the government of their creation, to ascribe its destruction to certain radical errors of principle, which escaping their penetration are revealed in the calamities which afflict posterity. It is no ungrateful denial of their merited fame, to avail ourselves of the lights which experience has given us, while reading the philosophy of the failure of the Union, in the events which marked its career, and culminated in its downfall.

The Revolution, through who bloodstained paths we are now treading our way to independence, is but the natural sequence, with all its coincident features of misery and desolation, of those causes, whose operation began with the existence of the late Union, and have steadily increased in force and directness with each stage in our national development.

John Randolph, when a youth of sixteen, with that sagacity which so eminently distinguished his later years, clearly detected that insidious germ of consolidation which he afterwards so aptly characterized as “the poison under the wing of the Federal Constitution.” But this alarming evil against which even the forecaste of Mason, and the inspired prophecy of Henry, warned their countrymen as the source of contention and strife, if not the instrument of destruction to which all rights and powers of State Sovereignty, which was not the only cause for apprehension, nor indeed the most formidable. Later events have proven that the most powerful cause for the severance of the bonds of Union between the North and South, was far beyond the reach of legislative remedy, and far superior to the statesmanship of the wisest framers of the Federal Constitution.

We advance no new theory in the interpretation of the philosophy of this revolution, when we ascribe the necessity of separation to the irreconcilable antithesis and utter incompatibility of the civilization of the two sections. That Cavalier element predominating in Southern civilization, and giving tone to Southern society, and character to Southern politics, had its representatives in the early days of the Union in those who opposed the surrender of the liberties of the States to a necessary inimical, centralized power. That Puritan element which underlies the fabric of Northern civilization, clearly manifested its antagonism to the other, by seeking in the very incipiency of the government, to deprive the States of all their power, and to establish with an irresponsible supremacy, a monster consolidated empire, which like that of Augustus, should have the name of Republic, but the character of an unmitigated despotism. The former, in later periods of our history, had a worthy champion in Carolina’s great son, who on all occasions nobly sustained the eminence of his mother State, as the most vigilant of all the vessels in her jealously of Federal encroachment. The later found an early and powerful advocate in Webster, who despite that professed comprehensive patriotism, embracing equally all sections of his common country, and despite the concealed splendour of his eloquence and statesmanship, was yet an appropriate representative of New England selfishness, and descends to history as the author of the ablest and most elaborate vindication of that policy now applied to the extinguishment of the liberties of a free people.

But apart from the considerations of an essential difference of origin and race, there are other evidences of widely distinct and conflicting social establishment. These conflicting elements are not only of harmonious cooperation in the old Union, but have never been harmoniously blended under any system of government; and will ever stand as two irreconcilably hostile systems, until the established wisdom of one shall secure the universal repudiation of the other.

It will not be denied that the two Confederacies, as they now confront the world, represent, approximately at least, essentially different establishments – the one a Democracy, with a redeeming feature of regulated liberty, the other, in its social character, eminently Patrician, and utterly opposed to a system thoroughly popular.

The Federal Constitution, the government of our common creation, from the moment of its adoption, has presented an open question, which has finally sought its solution in the arbitrament of war, as to the rightful interpretation of its design whether Confederate or Democratic, Republican or Consolidated …”

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