Special to the Mirror by Charles Landis.
In her recent book, Trail of Blood, Dr. Joane Freeman, Professor of history and American studies at Yale, makes the case that the first shots fired in the Civil War were not at Ft. Sumner in Charleston but were fired in the Congress in the period 1830-1860 leading up to secession and the War. The country was bitterly divided over slavery, the representatives in Congress reflected the attitudes of their constituents, and Benjamin French, Clerk of the House of Representatives during the period, recorded in seventeen volumes all the anger, insults, and violence in the debates.
However much we may be dismayed by the division in Congress today, nothing compares to what transpired in the three decades leading up to the Civil War. Pistols, Bowie knives, and canes were commonly carried to the floor of the Congress as necessary to either assert a position or to defend against a physical attract. Any comment by a northerner against the southern way of life and the institution of slavery was regarded as an assault on their code of honor. Immediate response was confrontation, verbal and physically assault, or challenge to duel. Bullying of Republican abolitionists by Southern Democrats was a constant abuse.
One can scarcely turn a page in French’s chronicle of this period without reading of the verbal assaults, bullying, or challenges of the Eastern Shore’s Representative, Henry Wise, considered the most important political person in Virginia in the quarter century leading to the War. In the South, dueling in defense of the code of honor was supported and considered necessary under the code. In the North dueling was not approved of but refusal to accept a challenge was considered a sign of cowardice. Adoption of the gag rule requiring the tableting and prohibiting of discussion of petitions relating to the abolition of slavery exacerbated the frustrations of the North.
The Republican abolitionists believed in the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with the inalienabel right to freedom. The Democrats in the South believed the Constitution established the legitimacy of slavery and the Supreme Court under Justice Taney opined slaves were personal property (Dred Scott). Both sides believed their cause was just. With the election of Lincoln what had been a cold civil war became the real Civil war.
There are interesting similarities in how the country was divided in 1860 and now. Lincoln was elected with only 40% of the popular vote, (the second lowest in US history) and 59.4% of the electoral vote. John Quincy Adams was the lowest with 30.9% of popular vote and 32.8 of electoral votes. Trump won the 2016 election with 56% of electoral vote but only 46.9% of popular vote. The Southern Democrats feared the “tyranny” of the Republicans under Lincoln and seceded. Today the Democrats allege tyranny of Republicans under Trump and seek to change the results of the election by impeachment or obstruction and resistance to every policy or initiative. Never Trump!
Today, the violence, intimidation, and bullying of Republicans by Democrats is not, as in the pre-Civil War period, by thrashing with a cane or fists, or brandishing pistols and Bowie knives. The threats, however, are still therere as evidenced by attempted assassination, imaging of the severed head of Trump at political rallies, assaults in public places, and need for armed protection of Republican officials not before considered necessary. Bullying is again an integral part of the Democrat party playbook. Democrat leadership calls for assaults on Republicans in any public place(Waters),to kick Republicans when disagree with policies (Booker), and to not be civil to the deplorable Republicans until Democrats are in control (Clinton). The wearing of a red MAGA hat is sufficient cause to bully and fabricate fake news as in the Covington Catholic School case.
The most disturbing cases of bullying occur on the campuses of colleges and universities. Each year there are hundreds of instances of assaults on anyone expressing opinions contrary to the political correctness of the left.
Disunion is not threatened today but there is unfolding an effort by senior officials in the deep state at the FBI and Justice Department to change the result of an election and remove a duly elected President, Trump, by usurping authority and invoking the 25th Amendment.
Media in the lead up to the Civil War was primarily newspapers and pamphlets which reflected sectional interests and prejudice. Often news was reported in the form of anonymous letters out of fear of bullying and physical assault on the reporter. Today, national media is dominated by opinion commentary broadcast 24/7 with 90% of reporting by Democrats with negative commentary against Trump and Republicans which are based on anonymous sources and “what if” speculation. Historians have long regarded the election of Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) as the dirtiest in our history but what has been said against Trump and his family exceed anything I have read of in the past.
In the years leading up to the Civil Warr, division was over the Constitutional issues of disunion and equality/social justice. Dr Charles Kessler, Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, makes the case that division today is a Cold Civil War between two contrary visions about the Constitution. The conservative/Republican vision is based on the original Constitution as written and amended. The Progressive/Democrat vision is of a “ living Constitution” and the original Constitution must be “infused with new meaning and new ends” to include new rights, powers, and responsibilities to circumvent structural limitations of the original Constituton. To be continued
C. Augustus Landis