Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Essential Reading: The Confederate Constitution of 1861


This review was first printed in Southern Partisan magazine in 1995.

Marshall DeRosa: The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry into American Constitutionalism (University of Missouri Press, 1991).

Let there be no doubt, my friends. Marshall DeRosa addresses a serious and important issue. He claims the struggle for American independence was renewed and, in a sense, reached a peak during the Civil War. Contrary to the superficial accounts of the causes of the War Between the States, DeRosa squarely and forcefully addresses the primary cause of The Late Unpleasantness: constitutionalism.

Our political liberty and economic prosperity, unsurpassed in the history of mankind until the formation of the American regime, occurred because our forefathers were guided by theory and prudence. These twofold elements are seen clearly in the U.S. Constitution, the oldest existing “experiment” in self-government.

Our forefathers learned much from Greece, Rome, Christianity, and modern political writers. And they learned well how to apply the lessons of politics that history bequeathed them. But the American founders also understood that societies are organic— “theory” or “principles” cannot simply be impressed upon a people. Prudent statesmen understand that a new government must take into account a people’s tradition, religion, ability for self-rule, and economic habits.

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