I've been reading the book "Washington's Circle" by David S., and Jeanne, Heidler. The very first chapter had some gems of quotes about government that I need to analyze. Our founding fathers were divided mostly on sectional grounds, with the Northern delegates having a clear vision of the country as a developed place and the Southern delegates ironically pre-occupied with both slavery and "liberty." The result was a National Government that took 70 years, and a bitter civil war, to end slavery. That war, completed, we found ourselves ruled by oligarchy and a trust and corporate nightmare. Well the reason for that turns out to be hidden in our constitution. We setup a government that was based more on the Southern Plantation style government then on the Northern Town Charter government.
Our Founders setup a government premised on certain Northern Principles:
"Civic Virtue" [as a] "corporate exercise involving church elders, town aldermen, even congressional delegations, all working in concert to advance the common interest." [From "Washington's Circle" see below]
In that vision the Nation was to be an:
"organic creature, the body entire, and preserving its health was simply another obligation, the appropriate province of Government."
But he notes that Southerners didn't see government the same way.
"Plantation agriculture kept the region rural; town meetings didn't occur because there were precious few towns. Instead, southerners relied on hierarchical relationships with planters at the top of a social structure too vertically linear to be described as even pyramidal. A mass of poor whites was at it's base, and slaves were completely under it."
The genesis of this was in colonialism. The Early Crown colonies tried to replicate the tyrannical forms the Admiralty had found successful in Britain. They weren't able to export all of them to the United States because they needed a mass of free people and at least the illusion of opportunity to populate the country. In the North the Yeomen farmers replicated their own ideas about governance from a tradition of local rebellion against top down rule. But in the South the Brits were more successful in exporting tyranny through:
"County Courts with lifetime judges reflected the will of the upper class, and slavery made white unity and consensus imperative."
Sheriffs and the few elected officials represented this hierarchy, and fear of slaves, phantom outside enemies, or whatever the local leadership could drum up as the enemy of the week kept the south together despite the reality of oppression. Because the poor sometimes owned their own land and were told they were free, they supported the hierarchy. Because they were left alone in their misery as long as they didn't challenge this order the result was the illusion of personal liberty. Slave owners were free to oppress slaves, and the poor were free to do what they needed to do to get by. A sense of civic order, duty and common purpose was absent from this order. The attitude in the south was "leave me alone", and that is not conducive towards democracy because democracy depends on "stepping up" (Hoi Bollomenos) and involvement. That attitude has infected most of the country since then.
But the real coup is that the Founders grafted the Southern legal system into the National Government. We have a supreme court that "reflect[s] the will of the upper class" and increasingly our representatives reflect a southern Libertarian attitude ("leave me alone to practice pedaphilia and beat up my wife") versus a civil and liberal attitude ("I participate in my own government to secure my liberties and exercise my duty to my fellow man"). As a country we do Counties and Southern Style courts well, but civic virtue is under assault along with cities and towns. Ironically as the South has the population to support real civic structures, those are being trampled on from Boston to Detroit, to Washington D.C. We need to strengthen, restore and (in much of the country) recreate civic structures to restore and redirect our corporate structures to a more civic attitude.
And of course the point is, that in parts of the country, we never had those civic values in the first place. That is the real weakness of our Constitution.
- Quotes from "Washington's Circle" by David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler:
- My copy is from the Public library. I'm referring to some other books I'm reading too, but those aren't quoted.