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THE WAR WITHIN – HOW IT STARTED – WILL NULLIFICATION FANTASIES NEVER END? (PART IV)

January 19, 2014

THE WAR WITHIN – HOW IT STARTED – WILL NULLIFICATION FANTASIES NEVER END? (PART IV)

Abraham Lincoln, like Zachary Taylor, was a Whig. He served one term in Congress under the Whig banner. The Whig party was destroyed by the issue of slavery and went out of business in 1854. From its ashes arose the new Republican party, a party against territorial expansion of slavery if not slavery itself. The Republican party of that early day was anti-slave and liberal by comparison with the pro-slave old guard Democratic party at the time. Had I been around then, I would have voted as a Republican.

During the twenty or so final years leading up to the Civil War there were all kinds of political movements. Republicans replaced Whigs. There was a Liberty party and a Free Soil party and, of course, a Democrat party. The issues surrounding slavery per se began to yield to the arguments for or against its expansion into the newly conquered territories we gained in the Mexican War. As seen in Part III, Calhoun was loudly opposed to any attempt to ban slavery in any new states coming into the Union.

The Compromise of 1850 was hailed both north and south as a “final settlement” with quotes from senators such as “The crisis is passed – the cloud is gone.” Senator Douglas urged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to “stop the debate, and drop the subject.” Henry Clay, though 73 and in poor health with tuberculosis, spoke eloquently to the 31st Congress convened in 1850 in favor of the proposed Act. He died two years later. John C. Calhoun attended this session and provided a speech against the proposed Compromise, warning that secession was inevitable unless the Southern right to bring slaves into every section of the new territories were permitted, among other such demands. He “provided” the speech but did not give it because he was too ill, instead handing it to his friend Senator James Mason of Virginia to read. This was his final address to the Senate, given in March, 1850. He died days later, and did not live to see the horrible result to which he contributed so much – the Civil War.

Calhoun’s panacea for any argument against slavery was secession and nullification, his weapon of choice a machete rather than a scapel. However valid or invalid his positions are to be judged by history, there can be no doubt that his hardheadedness greatly contributed to the horrors of Gettysburg and Antietam and other slaughters with his constant threats of secession and nullification and destruction of the Union. A civil war is the worst of all wars since all the casualties are Americans. His aversion to compromise even in the slightest had the most lethal of consequences and his public conduct was destructive to democracy. I am of the view that anyone who follows such an exemplar is flirting with criminal sedition, and that includes modern-day libertarians and tea partiers.

The Civil War began with the firing on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1860 following the election of Lincoln. It probably would have started sooner but for the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, which stalled the war’s starting date. The Missouri Compromise banned slavery in any of the lands we acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Thirty four years after its adoption, it was emasculated by passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a compromise of sorts in and of itself. Calhoun was dead by 1854, but were he around, one can confidently predict how he would have voted.

The Republican party should give the boot to these modern-day Calhouns who so blithely announce that they are in favor of nullification of law and secession from the Union. The right to obstruct the law and destroy the Constitution does not exist, but a criminal sedition statute does. Let’s use it.  GERALD  E

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