28 April 2008

Yet more of the decline of America and all things good

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.

- President Andrew Jackson's Bank Veto Message, 10 JUL 1832 (Source: The Avalon Project)

Michael Hirsch's latest article at Newsweek on How the South Won (This) Civil War, 25 APR 2008, brings to mind the outlook and views of President Jackson and Jacksonians as he cites them as being a part of America that is doing things that he just doesn't like. Apparently he, like Bill O'Reilly, is bemoaning the slow decline of American culture and cites the Scots-Irish in the South as the source of it, and I will take the liberty of extensively quoting his article so as to examine just what it *is* that he is going after:

In part this is a triumph of demographics. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge observed in their 2004 book, "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America," the nation's population center has been "moving south and west at a rate of three feet an hour, five miles a year." Another author, Anatol Lieven, in his 2005 book "America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism," describes how the "radical nationalism" that has so dominated the nation's discourse since 9/11 traces its origins to the demographic makeup and mores of the South and much of the West and Southern Midwest--in other words, what we know today as Red State America. This region was heavily settled by Scots-Irish immigrants--the same ethnic mix King James I sent to Northern Ireland to clear out the native Celtic Catholics. After succeeding at that, they then settled the American Frontier, suffering Indian raids and fighting for their lives every step of the way. And the Southern frontiersmen never got over their hatred of the East Coast elites and a belief in the morality and nobility of defying them. Their champion was the Indian-fighter Andrew Jackson. The outcome was that a substantial portion of the new nation developed, over many generations, a rather savage, unsophisticated set of mores. Traditionally, it has been balanced by a more diplomatic, communitarian Yankee sensibility from the Northeast and upper Midwest. But that latter sensibility has been losing ground in population numbers--and cultural weight.

This is, as they say in refined circles, garbage. The lineage of both the Scots-Irish and the Protestant English, Dutch and Germanic peoples that came to the Northeast and Upper Midwest had very similar lines of society to those of the Scots-Irish, although with a more taciturn view of things than the more rambunctious cousins to the South. The differences between rural life in the Deep South and Northeast was that of basic religious outlook between the deep Protestants in the North East and the more Catholic lines in the South, but both led to similar problems for poor, rural communities in both regions. The Yankee tinkerer is no different in outlook than the Southern Frontiersman, save that one had to fight climate and government to keep kith and kin alive while the other had to fight hostile natives, government, and brew up whisky while keeping kith and kin alive. In fact, as Rev. A. L. Perry would write about in 1890, the Scots-Irish were very much IN New England (Source: Library Ireland):

The Scotch-Irish did not enter New England unheralded. Early in the spring of 1718 Rev. Mr. Boyd was dispatched from Ulster to Boston as an agent of some hundreds of those people who expressed a strong desire to remove to New England, should suitable encouragement be afforded them. His mission was to Governor Shute, of Massachusetts, then in the third year of his administration of that colony, an old soldier of King William, a Lieutenant-Colonel under Marlborough in the wars of Queen Anne, and wounded in one of the great battles in Flanders. Mr. Boyd was empowered to make all necessary arrangements with the civil authorities for the reception of those whom he represented, in case his report of the state of things here should prove to be favorable.


I have lately scrutinized with critical care this ancient parchment stamped by the hands of our ancestors, now in the custody of the Historical Society of New Hampshire, and was led into a line of reflections which I will not now repeat, as to its own vicissitudes in the seven quarter-centurys of its existence, and as to the personal vicissitudes and motives, and heart-swellings and hazards, and cold and hunger and nakedness, as well as the hard-earned success and the sense of triumph, and the immortal vestigia of the men who lovingly rolled and unrolled this costly parchment on the banks of the Foyle and the Bann Water! Tattered are its edges now, shrunken by time and exposure its original dimensions, illegible already some of the names even under the fortifying power of modern lenses, but precious in the eyes of New England, nay precious in the eyes of Scotch-Irishmen every-where, is this venerable muniment of intelligence and of courageous purpose looking down upon us from the time of the first English George.

The direct addressing of issues via community based democratic means in towns in the North East and upper Mid West have mirrors in the social and societal organizations that may have taken a slower pace in the South, but still assured that families and clans were all brought up to date on issues of the day. The more taciturn and somewhat puritanical North Eastern Yankees did have different societal customs across the North East and Mid West, ranging from that small town view of democracy in Vermont and New Hampshire to the more blue-blooded cosmopolitan forms in the big cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia) to the backwoods Dutch who had settled across Western NY to Ohio and Indiana, centered in Pennsylvania Dutch territory. From there the Appalachian family and clan views of the Scots-Irish intermingle and shift down through the Virginias and Carolinas to Georgia, forming the lovely Multi-Culti, wide spectrum of religious and social outlooks that gave birth to this Nation. Those differences in culture showed up in language, so you can chart out the Mason/Dixon line by the bucket/pail line, and numerous other words used to refer to items. Yet the presence of Scots-Irish in New England is demonstration that the divide being spoken of is *not* that of the Scots-Irish vs. the Elites of New England and the Mid West.

No, what Mr. Hirsch is describing is a different cultural divide, not the North-South one but the Big City - Small Town divide of America. In fact it was many of the 'East Coast Elites' that *were* elites because they sat in the halls of power in the larger cities of America and had their own derogatory view towards their Small Town and Rural cousins. A piece I did on Sam Adams clearly shows some of what that city-based elite saw as it viewed other parts of the culture in the Colonies and the Early Nation. While a noted thinker, theorist, brewer and patriot, Sam Adams did have his prejudices against Roman Catholicism, here writing in his untitled document on the Rights of the Colonists:

In regard to Religeon, mutual tolleration in the different professions thereof, is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced; and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind: And it is now generally agreed among christians that this spirit of toleration in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society "is the chief characteristical mark of the true church"2 & In so much that Mr. Lock has asserted, and proved beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only Sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach Doctrines subversive of the Civil Government under which they live. The Roman Catholicks or Papists are excluded by reason of such Doctrines as these "that Princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those they call Hereticks may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion of Government, by introducing as far as possible into the states, under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty and property, that solecism in politicks, Imperium in imperio3 leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war and blood shed-4

So, when Mr. Hirsch starts talking about a more 'diplomatic, communitarian' North East, one does have to wonder just *which* North East he is talking about? The rural North East would put up with a hell of a lot from the officious governments in their State Capitols, as seen during and after the Revolutionary war. Sam Adams was a *very* enlightened thinker for his time and period, and yet the clear distrust of Roman Catholics is demonstrated. That is neither 'diplomatic' nor 'communitarian' to seek outright restriction upon individuals because they happen to believe in one form of christianity over another.

Part of the Big City Elite vs Small Town and Rural is seen in the long and gloried career of Gen. Benjamin Lincoln who would be called out after the Revolution for a problem that faced the Confederacy (Source: History of War site):

Lincoln’s one remaining official post was first major general of militia. He accepted this post in December 1785, and made a series of suggestions for improving the state of the militia, but if he expected them to see any action, it would only have been guarding the borders of the state against Indian incursion. To his shock, he was to find himself leading troops against his fellow citizens.

At the heart of the divisions in Massachusetts was the split between the commercial towns and cities of the east coast and the entirely rural western part of the state. Just as the British had found western Massachusetts almost impossible to rule, now the state authorities found themselves facing a violent uprising. In the summer of 1786 protests began as a protest against the increasing burden of taxes. Added to the tax burden was an attempt to force the payment of private debts. Most of this debt was owed to the wealthy merchants of the east coast. The farmers in the west of the state felt that they were being oppressed by an oligarchy and were not properly represented by the state government. Many of their complaints were similar to those of the revolutions of the 1770s, an irony that appears to have escaped Lincoln, but that many did see (especially British visitors to the state).

The initial response of the state government was to grant a eight-month debt moratorium, but at the same time habeas corpus was suspended, and a new Riot Act put in place. Protest in the west soon turned into armed revolt. Leaders began to emerge, amongst them Daniel Shays (after whom the revolt was named). They began by closing the courts in the west of the state, but by the end of 1786 their rhetoric had grown to include a direct threat to march on Boston and overthrow what they felt was an illegitimate government. The similarities to the events of 1775 worried many, including Washington. As commander of the militia, Lincoln found himself in the front line against his fellow Americans.

The payment of debts incurred during the Revolution and the extremely heavy burden upon the poor, rural farmer caused many families to go into poverty as their land was confiscated to pay those debts. Here the Elite center of commerce in Boston put large debt repayment loads on individuals and enforced the payment of private debts, which further burdened farmers already close to the brink of going under. It is that view from the central, establishment in the Cities upon the rural folks that *is* the Elitist brand that Mr. Hirsch talks about, but the resentment OF IT is in no way limited to Jacksonians and the Deep South.

One of the reasons Washington did so well as General and President is that he did not cut himself off from his own frontiersman roots as a scout and surveyor for the British Army, and he continued to brew Rye Whiskey at Mount Vernon. These things and his humility in listening to his enlisted officers who had better knowledge of terrain and the army itself during the Revolution allowed Washington to manage that and so inspire the volunteers that many went without pay for long, long months. And while President Jefferson would not have religious practices during his term, and, in fact, formed a religious group of one individual (Source: Thomas Jefferson letter to William Short, 13 APR 1820 via Library of Congress), he would not seek to enforce that Elitist view upon the Nation and, instead, adhere to the wisdom of letting his fellow man decide for himself about what is right and proper in their lives in regard to religion. His continued support for agrarian views would continue to endear him to the more rural population, while his elitist views put him into the 'radical thinkers' camp in the realm of human liberty and religion. Would that latter day Elitists could take the lesson from that and learn to understand and even live with Small Town and Rural America.

The concentration of industrial capacity in cities would later put that divide into play as the Nation slowly moved from agrarian based to industrial based and the flow of money and power into Big City Elites and their corporations would entrench that view that Big City Establishments were out of touch with Small Town and Rural America. Whenever a politician speaks to the needs and beliefs of Small Town and Rural America they get a derogatory name attached to them: Populist. Populism, itself, is a 'grab-bag' terminology, often employed by the Elite establishment against anything that isn't part of it. Thus when Mr. Hirsch uses the following paragraph to tell what he is seeing he is deploying the 'populist' argument as an Elite:

The coarsened sensibility that this now-dominant Southernism and frontierism has brought to our national dialogue is unmistakable. We must endure "lapel-pin politics" that elevates the shallowest sort of faux jingoism over who's got a better plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. We have re-imported creationism into our political dialogue (in the form of "intelligent design"). Hillary Clinton panders shamelessly to Roman Catholics, who have allied with Southern Protestant evangelicals on questions of morality, with anti-abortionism serving as the main bridge. Barack Obama seems to be so leery of being identified as an urban Northern liberal that he's running away from the most obvious explanation of his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers: after Obama graduated from college he became an inner-city organizer in Chicago, and they were natural allies for someone in a situation like that. We routinely demonize organizations like the United Nations that we desperately need and which are critical to missions like nation-building in Afghanistan. On foreign policy, the realism and internationalism of the Eastern elitist tradition once kept the Southern-frontier warrior culture and Wilsonian messianism in check. Now the latter two, in toxic combination, have taken over our national dialogue, and the Easterners are running for the hills.

Notice that his first attack is on 'coarsened sensibility' which he then categorizes as: frontierist, shallow jingoist, backwards looking religious based views, anti-urban Northern liberal, UN demonizing, anti-Eastern elitist foreign policy while being pro-warrior and messianic Wilsonian. Do notice that he puts forward no positive views on this, nor does he recognize the large Roman Catholic populations that came to America from Italy, Poland and Spain. However he does correctly pin the problems of the Elitist as that of 'urban Northern liberal' and puts forward that *that* allows for anything against the United States to be absolutely OK with him so long as it has cover in something like 'inner-city organizer'... while not ever explaining what an 'inner-city organizer' does. Even worse is the attempt to look only at the 'messianic' part of Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy views, while trying to distance THOSE from the fact that they are tied up with the idea of extra-National organizations like the League of Nations and, later, the UN.

That last is particularly galling as Woodrow Wilson, himself, was an East Coast Elitist (to use Mr. Hirsch's terms) who used the messianic views as they were seen as a normal part of the political speech of that day and age. Indeed he did look to 'liberate Jerusalem' but when push came to shove he would not want to *fight over it* when given the opportunity to do so by taking on the Ottoman Empire. No, President Wilson was not going to do *that* to carry out a warrior-based, messianic foreign policy. Those were not Southern views he was giving, but they were part of what is called 'Progressivist' views, which Woodrow Wilson held. 'Progressivism' at that stage of things was decidedly a Christian-based movement, for all the fact it would later morph into one that held beliefs more in line with socialism and atheism.

I looked at the basis for Wilsonianism for Transnationalism, and found that President Wilson actually had a disdain for things like the Declaration of Independence (Source: 14 JUL 1914 speech Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Wilson's Addresses, via Project Gutenberg:

In one sense the Declaration of Independence has lost its significance. It has lost its significance as a declaration of national independence. Nobody outside of America believed when it was uttered that we could make good our independence; now nobody anywhere would dare to doubt that we are independent and can maintain our independence. As a declaration of independence, therefore, it is a mere historic document. Our independence is a fact so stupendous that it can be measured only by the size and energy and variety and wealth and power of one of the greatest nations in the world. But it is one thing to be independent and it is another thing to know what to do with your independence. It is one thing to come to your majority and another thing to know what you are going to do with your life and your energies; and one of the most serious questions for sober-minded men to address themselves to in the United States is this: What are we going to do with the influence and power of this great Nation? Are we going to play the old role of using that power for our aggrandizement and material benefit only? You know what that may mean. It may upon occasion mean that we shall use it to make the peoples of other nations suffer in the way in which we said it was intolerable to suffer when we uttered our Declaration of Independence.

Yes, like many of the Elites of the 'Progressivist' movement, Woodrow Wilson did not describe the Declaration of Independence as having eternal truths but only transitory ones that lose their significance once the Nation was born. This is not one of those uncouth, ill-bred, ignorant masses telling us about the transitory nature of the Declaration, but a well-heeled gentlemen of the East Coast Elites doing so. Nor are the 'warrior culture' folks of today using the highly linked idea of President Wilson of a Christian Nation that would take part in international bodies for the greater good of the world. You can't import the Wilsonian 'messianic views' without also dragging in the international part as they go hand-in-hand, so saying that the 'warrior culture' would embrace both the pro-international institutional views of Wilson and the anti-UN views of corrupt international institutions doing more harm than good is extremely ahistorical and trying to cherry-pick an ideal here and an ideal there to put together an incoherent mish-mash to tar other folks with.

And if Mr. Hirsch will rail about the lack of holding on to 'realism and internationalism of the Eastern elitist tradition' then perhaps Mr. Hirsch can point to the actual GOOD that tradition has done for the Nation? I have looked at the unreality of those 'realists' and see much that is at fault with their high minded views that want little or nothing to do with the actual dirty ways that Nations and societies run themselves. While they did, indeed, form a semi-coherent position against Communism, these great elitist foreign policy thinkers like Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, and James A. Baker III plus many others across party lines all *missed* the salient problems of Private Warfare, Islamic Fundamentalism and Radicalism, and had taken no price to try and confront either those waging Private War against the Law of Nations nor to confront the underpinnings of Islamic Radicals who started shooting up and blowing up choice parts of the Middle East, Europe, Russia, China, India, Africa, South America, North America and, indeed, other parts of the world. What did these great and oh-so-wise thinkers on all things Realpolitik actually *DO* about this?


For all the combined brain power they couldn't even bother to figure out that war waged by Private groups and individuals is anathema to all Nations and a threat to the entire international system they all so adored. So when a political figure starts to ally himself with a preacher speaking an ahistorical, unfounded gospel to condemn America and a homegrown, unrepentant terrorist, one does begin to look a little askance at just *why* this individual is so 'transcending' politics, when he is supporting those who think the place should be condemned and thrown into the ash heap of history. You don't have to be a coarse, warrior culture individual to know that such ties end up to bad places in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other choice parts of the world being blown up and shot at by other religious and politically totalitarian individuals spouting the EXACT SAME THING.

That set of Eastern elitist views backed by powerful industrialists who seek to dissolve National borders in the name of 'free trade' and their liberal counterparts looking to liquidate society based on illegal immigration do seem to be walking hand-in-hand these days: those are views to strip those outside of the elite enclaves of their ability to have a strong culture, strong society and protect the Nation. In that we are seeing a strange confluence of individuals like Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and John McCain who are *each* from the elitist establishment either by background or by shifting their views to that of the establishment so as to gain political power from it.

If Mr. Hirsch wishes to look for the problems caused by the Big City Elite establishment with the Nation, it is not the future that he should worry about, but the past and Shays Rebellion. That is the problem he is describing and it isn't a purely Jacksonian one, but is of the vast Red Nation with the isolated pockets of deep Blue in the Big Cities. The last time the Elites tried to push an unfair and destructive regime of taxation that would undermine family and society, that is what the Nation started to get and far beyond just the North East. A direct attack on that culture, itself, by the Elites and backed by politics may see something very similar.

The Big City Elites are one fine Shays away from getting something far worse than a 'coarsening of culture'.

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