Category Archives: Conservatism

Understanding the Emancipation Proclamation

Team of RivalsTHE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION revisited, denuded and within historical context.

I often hear that Lincoln is a tyrant and his goal was to centralize power in the federal government to satiate his own ambitions. His Emancipation Proclamation is used as evidence. It’s often portrayed by revisionist historical ideologues–more wedded to a vision than to truth–as a baseless usurpation of power by the executive, and theft of private property. In fact, it was neither, and one would have to PURPOSELY ignore Lincoln’s arguments for his emancipation proclamation and many in Congress who implored him to do it sooner than he actually did. Lincoln did not roll out of bed one day and blithely decide to take “property” from sovereign American citizens (let’s suppose, for argument sake, another human being can be considered property). It’s far more nuanced than that. This narrative elides nuance and context, I will do my best to fill the holes and tell the whole story of the Constitutional rationale behind the Proclamation.

First, it’s important to understand exactly what the Emancipation Proclamation actually did. It’s also important–especially those that decry Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus without the consent of Congress–to point out The First Confiscation Act in 1861, authorizing the confiscation of ANY property used in the REBELLION of the against the U.S. government. It wasn’t until September of 22, 1863, after the battle of Antietam, a union victory, that he issued his proclamation. It declared that “all persons held as slaves … shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” NOTE: this applied only to the states that were in REBELLION, as the Constitution itself makes a distinction between a nation at peace and one in rebellion. It did not free the slaves in the slaveholding border states such as Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland or Missouri and other slaveholding areas of the south that were already under union control. Lincoln was careful in his timing, ensuring that the proclamation would have as large of an positive impact as it possibly could in helping to preserve the union.

Now, for Lincoln’s actual position on emancipation, slavery and preserving the union.

1. Lincoln knew that his desire to end slavery was Constitutionally untenable. The Constitution provided the executive with absolutely zero power to prohibit it in the southern states. At the ratification, no southern delegate would have voted in favor of the document had this been the case. Lincoln states in his first inaugural address, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists, I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” But Lincoln didn’t stop there…

1a. In the same inaugural he went on to quote the Fugitive Slave Clause of the Constitution explaining, “It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear there support to the whole Constitution–to this provision as much as any other.” It’s important to note Lincoln’s fidelity to the Constitution.

2a. Lincoln goes so far as to propose a Constitutional amendment that would proscribe the federal government from ever interfering with the domestic institutions of a state. He explains, “holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to it’s being made express and irrevocable.”

Here, Lincoln validates two of the most important constitutional claims of the southern slaveholders, a constitutional prohibition against federal interference in the affairs of the states, particularly in regards to slavery. And, the constitutional right of slaveholders to recover their slaves.

In 1854, writing on this very issue, when southerners “remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not begrudgingly, but fully and fairly…”

So where was the disagreement?

Lincoln differed from the south in two prominent areas, the federal government’s ability to limit the expansion of slavery in the territories (The activist decision in the Dred Scott case unlawfully invalidated the federal government’s power to do so), and a perceived right of secession. It is extremely hard for one to rationalize those who have claimed to leave the union and the Constitution, while still seeking constitutional protection of slavery.

Though, Lincoln understood he had no power in times of peace to limit or abolish slavery. If he were to do so, the South could threaten the union. Moreover, the framers had capitulated on the issue of slavery and made explicit concessions to slavery in the Constitution, and in Lincoln’s opinion, those must be honored. Lincoln was then consigned to the very same necessity of the institution of slavery as our framers.

It wasn’t until the Southern states seceded, rescinding one of the main arguments for restraint in the North. The act of rebellion itself (secession) eliminated the threat of said rebellion as a reason for the North to accept the status quo. As Professor David Nichols so eloquently states, “Lincoln believed that the rebellion had turned the Constitutional tables on slavery.” The issue of slavery was going to die a slow, arduous and costly death, not at the hands of Lincoln, but at the behest of an insecure and lawless south, that was threatened by the growing industrial power and discontent with slavery itself in the North. Despite the act of rebellion, Congress’ First Confiscation Act, the Second Confiscation Act (which he would later point to as justification), and efforts by his generals to emancipate the slaves, Lincoln remained steadfast in his OPPOSITION to emancipation (as the timing was incorrect). As Lincoln states in a letter to Horace Greely (in response to Greely’s editorial. A few years after Lincoln’s death, Greely noted it was not a response at all, but Lincoln used it as a platform for his “altered position” on emancipation):

“…paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

Lincoln argued, in my opinion rightly, that his commander-in-chief powers, and the status of rebellion in the southern states, The First Confiscation Act and The Second Confiscation Act, afforded him the power to emancipate the slaves in order further the union cause and preserve the Constitution. What better way than to deprive the South of a large part of its labor force while simultaneously bolstering the size of the union army (estimated at 130,000 soldiers) with the recruitment of the newly freed slaves.

Once the North recognized southern slaves to be free, and as they were fleeing to Union camps or by union soldiers, made the political reality of slavery ever being restored in jeopardy. Also, the fact that 130,000 freed slaves had fought side-by-side with whites in the union army, invalidated any notion that slaves were not persons.

The border states, in which the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to, and with much urging from Lincoln, understood this reality and began plans of their own for emancipation. Lincoln then wanted a constitutional amendment approved as soon as possible so that slavery as a constitutional issue will no longer remain in doubt (13th Amendment).

Lincoln bided his time until he knew it would help the union succeed. This is where he derived his just powers from, not solely from a desire to free the slaves. In their misguided and unconstitutional attempts to secede THEY opened the door for the emancipation of the slaves. In this sense, the South was their own worst enemy, and their perverted interpretation of the Constitution was their ultimate downfall. How ironic.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Lincoln:

By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, the the preservation of the nation.”

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

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Raining on the Parade

I hate to be a Debbie downer here, but, lest we forget when the GOP had control of the Congress and the White House under the Bush Administration.

The GOP had control of Congress for 6 years and managed to grow government with their profligate spending at a rate unseen before in American history, only to be barely eclipsed by the administration we have now. Let’s not forget the big government statism of No Child Left Behind, Medicare part D and TARP (Yes, tarp was passed in 2008, but still).

The reason Republicans lost so badly in the 2006 midterms is the very same reason the Democrats lost in this midterm election: the blatant and obvious failure of big government statism.

Let us also not forget the GOP party leadership and their continued rebuke of the Tea Party and their bad-mouthing of libertarians and conservatives. Yes, I’m thrilled the Republicans took back Congress from the Dems, mainly because neither would be able to pass much legislation for the next two years. The problem with this is the President’s penchant to rule by fiat and the GOP’s penchant to cower like toddlers against the usurpations of our lawless President (remember the backlash by the GOP of Ted Cruz’s and Rand Paul’s filibuster?). I have zero faith in Boehner and McConnell, who have proven to be only concerned with their own power–that comes at our expense–rather than reducing it, and giving back to the people.

As conservatives/libertarians we have even more of an obligation now to hold the GOP’s feet to the fire and force them to decrease the size of government, first and foremost the REPEAL of Obamacare. I hear a lot of rhetoric from GOP congressmen-elects of a “bipartisan” approach to healthcare, what I do not hear is a “free market” approach to healthcare. WHY?!

Grow a spine GOP, or we’ll throw you out again.

–A common rebuttal to this would be that many of the elected are “conservatives.” Need I remind you that Kelly Ayotte ran as a conservative. Ron Johnson ran as a conservative and believe it or not, every time he’s ran for office, John McCain runs as a conservative (LOL). Calling yourself something, is vastly different than actually voting like one.

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

 

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Thomas Sowell on the “Rights Fallacy”

Sowell Constitution QuoteThe “rights” fallacy.

One of the most remarkable–and popular–ways of seeming to argue without actually producing any arguments is to say that some individual or group has a “right” to something that you want to have. Conceivably, such statements might mean any number of things. For example:

1. Some law or government policy has authorized this “right,” which is somehow still being denied, thereby prompting reassertion of it’s existence.

2. Some generally accepted moral principle has as its corollary that some (or all) people are entitled to what the “right” asserts, though presumably the fact that this right needs to be asserted suggests that others have been slow to see the logical connection.

3. The person asserting the particular “right” in question would like to have some (or all) people have what the right would imply, even if no legal, political, or other authorization for that right currently exists and there is no general consensus that it ought to exist.

In the first two cases, where there is some pre-existing basis for the “right” that is claimed, that basis need only be specified and defended. Still, that requires an argument. The third meaning has become the more pervasive meaning, especially among those with the vision of the anointed, and is widely used as a substitute for arguments.


From Thomas Sowell’s “The Vision of the Anointed.”

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

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Do Libertarians Understand Our Constitutional Republic?

Justice is BlindSome radical libertarians simply do not understand how our Constitutional Republic works. I see libertarian pages praising the judicial activism in the state courts overturning the will of people as it pertains to marriage policy. The issue of marriage isn’t my concern at this point, judicial tyranny is.

In order to reconcile the Madisonian dilemma, or consensus/dissensus, is how we decide such issues as marriage. Being that the constitution is silent on marriage, and by no means does the 14th amendment apply, nor any other amendment, said decision is left to the states/people (LEGISLATURE). Libertarians, in this case, are applauding an action that runs counter to the will of the people in some of these states, or have jumped the gun before the body politic could catch up, either case is irrespective of the issue. Basically, they are advocating lawless judicial intervention.

How would Montesquieu define this type of tyranny?

“There are two sorts of tyranny: one real, which arises from oppression; the other is seated in opinion, and is sure to be felt whenever those who govern establish things shocking to the existing ideas of a nation.”

It would seem libertarians advocate the latter… only when it’s a law they agree with. I know few libertarians who would be willing to praise John Roberts for rewriting Obamacare from the bench and then declaring it “constitutional.” What then, is the purpose of the legislature? With the high and mighty, infallible and lawless judiciary, who needs the people anyway. This is the mentality libertarians are implicitly endorsing by praising this kind of judicial activism. I find it distressing that libertarians advocate the same tactic the left has for imposing their vision of society onto the people. The next time we get an activist, lawless opinion from the courts, I don’t want to hear the same libertarian pages complain about “big government.” The courts uphold contracts on behalf of the people, not a state Supreme Court Justice. They’ve already obliterated the commerce clause that has led to the dirigiste economy we have today, next they’ll seek to change the takings clause. No big deal, someone is sure to agree with it somewhere.

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

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William F. Buckley on the Drug War

I’ve been back and forth on the drug war issue for years, but I tend to agree with Buckley here. Most conservatives I know are for decriminalization at the very least.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re are valid arguments against it. But the cost-benefit scenario works out in legalization’s favor.

I know most of our followers are libertarian, how did you folks form your conclusion on drug use, through ideology, market mechanisms or because that’s what you’ve heard? Maybe in the same way I have? I’m curious to know. 


“First of all, please don’t mistake my position for that of people who are indifferent to drugs. I’m not indifferent to drugs. I think I’ve been quoted as saying if I could turn a single latch which would make all the drugs disappear from the face of the earth, with the exception of here and there, a vineyard in Bordeaux, I would turn that latch. Now, you say is it inconsistent for a conservative to take my position? I don’t think it is, because a conservative seeks to be grounded in reality. That which works is quantifiable; that which simply does not work, isn’t. If you were to pass a law requiring people to go to church on Sunday, it wouldn’t work. Under the circumstances, you would eventually simply withdraw such a law. My position on drugs is that they are, the drug laws aren’t working, and that more damage net is being done by their continuation on the books than would be done by withdrawing them from the books. This, as I say, should not be confused as a sanction for drugs. Drugs are a form of escapism, and the damage in taking them is not by any means self-limited. It damages other people also. For that reason, the question is: How do you diminish the net harm done by drugs?”

-William F. Buckley

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

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Random Thoughts About Progressive Liberalism

It’s amazing to me that liberals/socialists can get away with blaming wealth creators for poverty or penury throughout the world without ascribing a bit of blame to the actual and perpetual perpetrator – big government.

The market doesn’t force kids to go to substandard schools without any choice whatsoever. The market doesn’t force these same kids into schools that teach them minimal-to no-skills. The market doesn’t make it illegal to hire someone at their actual level of production that is most times (due to poor public education and lack of choice) below an arbitrary level of production the government deems moral (so much for not legislating morality, huh libs?).

A liberal will tell you how the debate for climate change/ global warming is over. It’s science. In fact, it’s far from over. Economic matters, for example, are more clear.

No matter how many times you show them the data and empirical observations of the economic sciences, they’ll deny them till they’re blue in the face, lament your racist leanings, misogynistic tendencies and your irrational hatred for poor people. The fact that minimum wage helps no one, but hurts those most vulnerable is no match for mantras, repetition, and sloganeering.

In fact, the reason these observations and empirical analysis exist is to ensure that those most vulnerable are the least impacted by economic policies, and allow them a fair shake at acquiring human capital, and adding to aggregate production improving the standard of living for all (liberals, like Karl Marx, cannot comprehend that wages are relative to prices, but that doesn’t surprise me). Liberals don’t care about truth, they care about ideology. The myth that somehow they are driven by “compassion,” when it is in fact a high degree of envy that undergirds liberal rhetoric and policy making that directly correlates to the apathy of the people, who would rather feel than think. How do I know? Because they deny science, reason and logic, no matter how many of those people they claim to want to help, are affected negatively by their maladroit policies.

It is very frustrating.

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

 

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Young Americans for Liberty (YAL)?

John LockeAt 31 years old and entering my super-super senior year of college, I am privy to campus organizations for young people (though sometimes I forget how young they are) that claim the mantle of disseminating the ideas of classical liberalism/liberty. I would most definitely consider myself more of an autodidact rather than a perpetual student, although I decided to go back to school only a few years ago. Prior to my decision, I’ve done extensive research on the American founding and the origins of the principles enshrined in our Constitution. From Locke and Montesquieu to Adam Smith and Milton Friedman, you name it and chances are I have either read it or own it and plan on reading it. I have been blessed enough to find my muse at a relatively young age, and through sacrifice and determination, pursue it with a passion and a vigor I never knew I was capable of.

I attended the YAL state convention in California this spring, and much to my dismay, I found a large segment of the YAL student participants and speakers were anarcho-capitalists. Jeffery Tucker (A very nice man by the way) was the keynote speaker, a well known anarchist among the Rothbardian “libertarian” movement. I found it contradictory that an organization that hands out pocket Constitutions with their brand on it, had as a keynote speaker someone that despises the Constitution just as much as the socialist does. I have no problem with Mr. Tucker and his views, but if YAL is going to promote the ancap (anarcho-capitalist) viewpoint, at least be honest about it. As a classical liberal/constitutional conservative, I have very little in common with the a priori utopian vision of the Rothbardian anarchist. I find it a threat to liberty as anarchy always has been throughout human history. If you’d like some empirical verification on the success of the American constitutional republic, take a look at the progress of this nation from it’s inception to present day. Why weren’t trains, automobiles, light bulbs, computers, airplanes etc. created in any other type of system prior to the ratification of the Constitution in America? Why didn’t de Tocqueville chronicle Hamilton Anarchy Quotethe success of anarchy rather than the successes of our young constitutional republic? All the empirical verification is contained in the two volumes of de Tocqueville’s magnum opus, “Democracy in America.” Moreover, the steady and piecemeal disintegration of our republic can be better understood by comprehending its success as intended, rather than the Fabian socialist perversion thereof we are subjected to today. John Locke, considered the father of classical liberalism, in his Two Treatise of Government, uses a posteriori reasoning to propose the most prudent course for liberty. Montesquieu does the same, as do many of our founding fathers and framers of the Constitution. They understood despotism as well as anarchy leads to tyranny, and both were considered when forming the new government. Many of the young students may have heard these names, but have never considered the arguments they so eloquently espouse and have been promulgated into the American founding documents. In fact, so few of the participants know anything about the American founding or the Constitution, that I considered leaving YAL altogether.

Then came the YAL national convention in mid-summer, which I had planned to not attend. It just so happened that the same weekend CATO University was in San Diego, just a short drive away from me in Long Beach. The price for CATO was too high compared to the free room and food that YAL had offered. Also, the speakers lined up on the first night of the convention were extremely appealing and some of my favorites. Among them were Justin Amash, Walter Jones, Tom McClintock, Raul labrador, Thomas Masse, Mark Sanford, and Rand Paul, so I chose YAL. I was excited to say the least. There were roughly 300 attendees at the event including me and a couple of friends that I had invited from BCL (Being classically liberal). Rand Paul, the fan favorite, likely due to the association to his father, Ron Paul, received largest applause along with Justin Amash. He lightly pandered to the crowd of young YALers, but nothing egregious to speak of (the issue of marijuana is always at the forefront of these conventions, which is fine, but we have a constitutional crisis on our hands so let’s get our priorities straightened out).

Then, the congressmen took the floor. All it took to get a raucous applause out of the crowd was to mention Ron Paul’s name or anything associated with Ron Paul. It became so obvious that when Raul Labrador took the mic, he playfully uttered “Ron Paul!,” and the clapping seals erupted in applause. This, mind you, was the week Ron Paul claimed Israel created Hamas so they have “carte blanche” to destroy the Palestinians in the Gaza strip (how does he get away with this stuff?). Only one of the many the baseless claims made by Ron Paul on foreign policy over the years. When Labrador declared he is a “Reagan Republican” the only one in the crowd to clap was me (Not surprisingly. I was the only one that knew anything about Reagan). Ron Paul opposed Reagan’s strategy to defeat the USSR which ultimately liberated millions of Eastern Europeans and Russians alike, while collapsing one of the most evil empires and national security threats our young country has ever known. Ron Paul’s voting record under Reagan mirrors Joe Biden’s voting record, and now we see first hand how well Biden’s maladroit foreign policy vision is working in reality.  Tell me again about Ron Paul’s appeal to the liberty movement? He denounced Reagan in ’87 and embraced him in the 1988 elections. No one questions the man’s actual record, rather they adhere to his demagoguery and rhetoric. That’s when I realized there is an epidemic of group think in the YAL ranks. Their methodology is flawed and they lack any philosophical foundation. For example, Walter Jones discussed how he had just visited wounded soldiers from Afghanistan, and for him, this was enough justification to pull out our troops. This proposition was met with a huge applause. If we had used the same logic in World War II we wouldn’t have made it very far past Pearl Harbor. I may agree with Walter Jones that we need to pull out, but what kind of justification is that? When Thomas Masse was asked why he was a libertarian, he responded “Waco.” I don’t know what he meant by that, but what I did know is that this event, and these young adults are not thinking beyond the headlines and the pandering. YAL lacks critical thinkers. Many call themselves Austrian, but have never read Hayek. Clearly, many have never read Ron Paul. They are all aware of Rothbard, but not aware of his views on parents obligation to their children (or lack thereof). Many are anarchists, yet they chose to participate in a group that has invited Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to speak at prior events, two constitutional originalists that see anarchy as a threat to liberty.

To back up my above claims, many of the aforementioned questions in this piece I had posed–in person–to the myriad think tanks and political organizations that had tabled at the YAL event. They were shocked at my apprehension towards Ron Paul’s bogus foreign policy assertions. Some, like Americans For Prosperity and Heritage, acknowledged my angst for the ancap contingency within YAL, but hesitated to be as verbally explicit as I was.  Moreover, many were unable to define exactly what anarchy is, when it has ever produced a flourishing society or made clear that they had ever given the topic and critical thought.  My BCL friend would most certainly attest to that. He was doubled over laughing so hard at my forthrightness and their extremely perplexed reactions. If I wasn’t so frustrated, I would’ve been laughing just as hard.

What I did get out of that first night event was that Justin Amash–a noted libertarian and a fan favorite–didn’t use the opportunity to pander, like some of his colleagues. He spoke of the Constitution and the Rule of  Law which elucidates classical liberal principles much better than Ron Paul ever could. Tom McClintock also mentioned the Constitution as a means of espousing liberty along with Labrador. Needless to say, none of their comments elicited an applause. YAL needs to decide just what principles they want to espouse: the utopian a priori propositions and mantras of the anarchist, or the a posteriori reasoning of the classical liberal founders who, in our founding documents, created the most free and prosperous country the world has ever known. What say you, YAL?

 

– Will Ricciardella

 

 

 

 

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