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Category: Mike Scruggs' Column

Choosing between Union under Tyranny and Liberty

John C. Calhoun, U.S. Vice President 1825-1832, Advocate for limited government.
John C. Calhoun, U.S. Vice President 1825-1832, Advocate for limited government.

The Declaration of Independence in 1776 established two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. These were the principal themes of the South Carolina Declaration of the Immediate Causes for Secession on December 24, 1860.

The South Carolina Secession Declaration also addresses some slavery questions, but most of these 18 short references relate to Northern violations of Article 4, clause 3 of the Constitution and the toughened enforcement legislation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I would agree that the 1850 Compromise that brought California into the Union was a disagreeable one, likely to cause genuine future tensions on both sides. The South Carolina Declaration uses these violations as specific examples of Northern breach of Constitutional and legislative commitments, which added to South Carolina’s case for secession. However, these uncomfortable clashes over the unworkable and unpopular 1850 Fugitive Slave Act do not justify a conclusion that Secession and the War were only or even principally about slavery.

The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights also provided support for States Rights, which strongly inferred the right of Secession:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

If the Federal Government breaks its Constitutional covenant with the States, by tyranny and usurpations of the rights of the States and the people, it breaks a long-standing principle of American and Western Law. An established American rule of law is that in a contract between two or more parties, the obligation of fulfillment is mutual. The failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other. Unless specific arbitration is stipulated, each party is remitted to his own judgment to determine the fact of failure, with all its consequences.

Even Abraham Lincoln supported these principles in 1848. He changed his mind in 1861 to prevent the secession of Southern States. The secession of Southern States would mean a loss of more than 80 percent of U.S. tax revenues under a high-tariff system that favored Northern industry and exploited Southern agriculture. Also, more than 80 percent of U.S. tax revenues were spent to benefit the North. The South’s proposed low-tariff, free trade policies would have shifted Northern shipping business to low-tariff Southern ports, wrecking the Northern shipping industry. The British had become strong advocates of free trade and would have benefited from Southern Independence and free trade. That is why Lincoln’s chief economist, Henry Carey, attributed the Civil War to “British Free Trade.”

Secession was stopped by a War against Southern Independence that cost approximately 850,000 lives. Might, however, does not make right. We still have the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s Bill or Rights. A very strong case can be made that secession was and is still legal. But is it desirable?

is clearly not desirable under ordinary circumstances. The national security question is enormous. How would a splintered United States resist Chinese, Russian, or other aggression? The economic questions are enormous. The fractionalization of the U.S. economy into two are more uncooperative parts would create undeniable economic hardships. Moreover, family separations could prove enormously painful. But will Americans give up their freedoms to remain united?

The ultimate question is whether we will be pushed into a decision of choosing between tyrannical unity and freedom. In its economic implications alone, tyranny and especially socialist tyranny crush prosperity, but freedom creates prosperity.

We are headed for some extraordinary tough decisions and hardships, unless voters wake up and throw out the social Marxists and their spineless establishment apologists in the 2022 and 2024 primaries and general election. But will honest and fair elections be possible? No one outside of a madhouse believes the 2020 elections were not contaminated with election fraud, dark money, and outrageous financial and media manipulation. How did we let Face Book billionaire Mark Zuckerburg get away with contributing $419 million to influence election rules, selective voter turnout, and vote counting? How did we allow George Soros to give immense contributions to networks of front organizations undermining American election integrity? Millions of illegal immigrants, who are now overwhelming our borders and being transported inland, may be voting in 2022 and 2024.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson through Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, arranged for an elaborate Democratic Party dinner to celebrate on April 13, the birthday of Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonian principles of the new Democratic Party. This was held at Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel in Washington. Political tension was increasing because of the effects of the substantial and controversial tariff increases that had been passed in 1828. These tariffs favored Northern manufacturers and punished farmers, especially those exporting agricultural products. The tariffs were having the most devastating economic impact on the cotton producing states of the South. Among these, South Carolina, was suffering the most.

It must be inserted and noted here that the Democratic Party of the Nineteenth Century was a Jeffersonian conservative party, especially on Constitutional matters. Its leftward drift began in early 1900s and accelerated in the 1960s and has now progressed to radical social Marxist extremism supported by globalist, monopoly-seeking big business. This has driven most conservatives into the Republican Party, which was formed in the 1850s and was itself formerly more oriented to big business profiting from big government. Both the Republican and Democrat parties are quite different from their predecessors of 1860.

Jackson’s Vice President, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, one of the guests of honor at the 1830 dinner in Washington, had become one of the leading spokesmen against the “Tariff of Abomination.”  He, along with many Southern leaders, believed that the Tariff of 1828 was unconstitutional because it subsidized one branch of industry, manufacturing, at the expense of commerce and agriculture. Calhoun maintained that a tariff should not tax one section of the economy or one region of the country for the benefit of another. He also believed that a tax on all the people should not be levied for the exclusive enrichment of only a part of the people. There was talk in the South Carolina legislature of Nullification, refusing to comply with such an unconstitutional, unfair, and very damaging law. There was even talk of secession.

Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina was to be the speaker that evening. After his remarks would come both voluntary and special toasts. Besides unifying the Party, Jackson looked upon the toasts as an opportunity for him to promote national and Democratic Party unity and to indicate his displeasure with any talk of Nullification.

Senator Hayne spoke, denouncing the tariff but avoiding any mention of Nullification. But when the voluntary toasts began, they took on an increasingly anti-tariff tenor, and the Pennsylvania delegation walked out.

When it came time for the special toasts, the tension was high. President Jackson rose, holding his glass before him. Rather than sweeping his eyes across the audience, he stared sternly at Calhoun alone and said,

“Our Union, it must be preserved.”

The Vice President was next to give his toast. The room was deadly quiet and the tension building even higher. Slowly Calhoun stood, lifted his glass, and in a firm voice directly addressed the President:

“The Union, next to our liberty, most dear.” 

He paused for a moment and then to make his point unmistakably clear continued,

“May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the states and by distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.”

We may draw a lesson from this famous drama. Union or unity is a beneficial condition of likeminded men, but it is not a condition so beneficial that it outweighs every other condition, principle, or virtue. Unity by no means outweighs considerations of liberty, truth, honor, justice, high moral principle, or spiritual fidelity. It cannot outweigh essential human dignities and unalienable rights. If unity does not serve mutual benefit, virtue and principle, its value is nullified. Furthermore, real unity cannot be coerced. Union forced at the point of a bayonet is tyranny and the enemy of liberty and all its virtues and blessings.

We are living in a time when American freedoms are in great peril, and even our election processes are being undermined. It is obvious to most that the so-called Biden regime is tyrannical in its attempt to control everything—the economy, speech, media,, elections, work, vaccinations, substituting indoctrination for education, undermining religious freedoms, everything. It is as if the Federal government and its media, corporate, and education allies have been afflicted with a mass obsessive-compulsive control personality disorder (OCD). If we cannot break the back of Marxist power and Democrat OCD in the 2022 and 2024 elections, we are going to be left with a grim choice between union and freedom.

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