More Civil War

I think this is absolutely correct, but if were a mainstream libertarian, I wouldn’t highlight it – I would shut up about it:

The contribution of abolitionist constitutionalism to the original public meaning of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment was long obscured by a revisionist history that marginalized abolitionism, the “radical” Republicans, and their effort to establish democracy over Southern terrorism during Reconstruction.

As Shelby Foote said about Reconstruction (link may not be great due to transition from Blogger to WordPress):

The [Confederate] flag is a symbol my great grandfather fought under and in defense of. I am for flying it anywhere anybody wants to fly it. I do know perfectly well what pain it causes my black friends, but I think that pain is not necessary if they would read the confederate constitution and knew what the confederacy really stood for. This country has two grievous sins on its hands. One of them is slavery – whether we’ll ever be cured of it, I don’t know. The other one is emancipation – they told 4 million people, you’re free, hit the road, and they drifted back into a form of peonage that in some ways is worse than slavery. These things have got to be understood before they’re condemned. They’re condemned on the face of it because they take that flag to represent what those yahoos represent as – in their protest against civil rights things. But the people who knew what that flag really stood for should have stopped those yahoos from using it as a symbol of what they stood for. But we didn’t – and now you had this problem of the confederate flag being identified as sort of a roughneck thing, which it is not. . . .

I don’t object to any individual hiding from history, but I do object to their hiding history from me. And that’s what seems to me to be going on here. There are a lot of terrible things that happened in American history, but we don’t wipe ’em out of the history books; we don’t destroy their symbols; we don’t forget they ever happened; we don’t resent anybody bringing it up. The confederate flag has been placed in that position that’s unique with an American symbol. I’ve never known one to be so despised.

There’s more on reconstruction at that post and in this book.

Now, I think Professor Barnett is correct to suggest that today’s Constitution is the Constitution of the Radical Republicans. The reason it is so, is that they won the war – part of which was about the meaning of the Constitution – hence they get to say what it means. From a libertarian standpoint, it’s a bit more muddled. "Their effort to establish democracy" was very bloody. As Nordhoff documents (in the book linked to) it was also corrupt. For example, it entailed choosing who was allowed to be elected. It also involved financially and economically ruining the states upon which democracy was established for generations. Other than that though, it was super noble.

I, personally, will stand up for the Radical Republican interpretation because I’ve seen what happens when you disagree with it (you get killed and your descendants get ruined). So, long live the Radical Constitution!

As I’ve said before, I’m not pro-South on this issue. My point is only that from the perspective of a freedom-loving, good-government-loving person there is no good side in the Civil War. By way of example, England managed to free its slaves without causing the deaths of 600,000 people. It also managed to meaningfully free them – something that the Radical Republicans were unable to do.

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