Sunday, October 25, 2015

Shoot, Who Needed the Fourteenth Amendment? There Had Always Been the Guarantee Clause to Subjugate the States

This post is number twenty-seven in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States. It continues my analysis of the national political situation around the time Mississippi’s taxpayers  rejected the progressive Radical constitution of 1868. For earlier related posts see  3 August30 August , 13 September27 September and 11 October 2015.

My last post dealt with the Southern taxpayers’ resistance to the public education programs forced upon them by the puppet regimes put in place by the unconstitutional acts of Congress. I ended that post by introducing one of the most extreme  framers of the dogma that public education was synonymous with patriotism. It was a qualified, Yankee patriotism, to be sure, and the program promoting such national devotion just happened to be a lucrative one for the patriots supporting it/supported by it.  

For you not familiar with Charles Sumner, the senior senator from Massachusetts, let me say that he was an abolitionist and an idealist, who focused on two things, the equality of man and the importance of education in compelling everyone to recognize that equality. He was rabidly anti-slavery. His father had also been anti-slavery, but told his son it would do no good to end slavery, because the Negro would not be treated equally and nothing would be accomplished. Okay. Well, young Charles, through a series of life-time opportunities, evolved the theory that the reason the Negro was not recognized as an equal was due to a lack of education for everyone. This theory evolved while he was relatively young and still knew everything. His wisdom did not “lessen” with age. I’m speeding up the scenario here, but I do believe Sumner thought integrated education for all would solve the problem—after slavery ended, of course. His goal of a Utopian “United” States did not begin with the war or during Reconstruction. For more than a decade prior to the South’s secession, Charles Sumner had been a major agitator of sectional conflict and, in my opinion, played a willing role in causing the war. Oh, and for you Southerners out there despairing of folks pointing out or linking you to the Southern states’ various articles of secession and screaming “see, see—it was about slavery”—do not despair. Not even Lincoln believed it was about slavery. Charles Sumner and those of his ilk made it about “slavery,” and those individuals manipulating selected data to the contrary need to crack the covers on a few more books or in some cases just read the entire articles of secession. 

What drove Lincoln was keeping the Union together—slavery was the issue driving Northern fanatics to foster increasingly debilitating requirements and economic impediments on the South. The South’s secession was a reaction to the latter. Further, let’s not forget what many today appear to have forgotten, the tacit approval and subsequent “martyrdom”  of John Brown, a fanatic who intended a bloody assault upon the Southern people followed by the tacit failure of the law in bringing the powerful men supporting that lunatic to justice. There were a number of compelling reasons that finally drove even reasonable Southerners to believe they’d be better off, peacefully, separated from the North’s increasingly skewed concept of the Founder’s Republic.  

At the time of Fort Sumter’s surrender, Lincoln’s goal was to save the Union in order to collect tariffs due from Southern ports and eliminate the specter of free-market Southern ports that would work havoc with those competing in the North. But in May, Senator Sumner counseled Lincoln to make the war over slavery. In Sumner’s mind, there was no way to save the Union without abolishing slavery. What that computes to is there was no way to save the Union as Charles Sumner conceived it should be without abolishing slavery. But the Union Charles Sumner envisioned did not incorporate the Republic our Founders had framed, but a Utopian state where all men looked upon one another as equals. For Saint Peter’s sake! Other whites don’t even look at one another as equals—and if anyone should have known that, Charles Sumner should, because he considered himself superior to everyone.

In October 1861, Sumner stated publicly at the Massachusetts’ Republican Convention that the Civil War’s sole cause was slavery and the primary objective of the Union government was to destroy it. It’s not entirely clear to me if he meant the reason we revolted against mother England was to end slavery (you know that old civil right’s deflection that our guiding document is the Declaration of Independence vice the Constitution) or if he’d narrowed the time frame to his contemporary period and continent. But the Declaration did not a Republic make, the Constitution did, and even then that agreed-upon union was conditional on the will of sovereign states except where the Constitution specified otherwise. 

During the summer of 1869, Virginia met all requirements for readmission under the Reconstruction Acts—including ratification of a “progressive” constitution and the election of a conservative Republican (Scalawag) ticket. However, the conservative candidate for governor, Gilbert Walker, had promised the Virginia taxpayer during the course of the tightly contested race that he would not enact the unpopular public school system outlined in the new constitution. Now, that had Sumner slobbering at the mouth. 

The tool Sumner used to repair the cracks in the Radical dam in Dixie was the Guarantee Clause, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution guaranteeing each state a republican form of government. I’ve used this play on words in earlier posts—what this traitorous Congress meant to ensure, not for the states, but for itself, was a “Republican” form of government. The disreputable congressional majority then took it upon itself to pervert that clause so they could use it to accomplish their objectives. Just as there’d been no definition of what a citizen was (the determination made by the individual states), there was no specific definition of what a republican constitution was. The Founders did provide a general set of criteria, that being popular rule by the voters (and voting rights were established by each individual state); protection from monarchy—meaning no governor would be allowed to gain control of a state and rule as a king; and protection from civil disorder, meaning no mob rule/direct democracy. Beyond that the central government had no say in state governance, nor was it intended to. It was not a “guarantee” that Congress would interfere with the rights of majority rule within a state because a Congress dominated by one section and one party was failing in its overbearing attempts to enforce its will on another. It was not a guarantee to the people. It was a guarantee to the states. All this civil rights rhetoric came well after the Founders had passed to glory, and it came with the Republican Radicals as part of their determination to impose their will on others by employing the power of the general government, power which first they had to appropriate from the states and pass to the central government.

Guarantee Clause thus invoked, Sumner proposed to make the “unreconstructed” states reentry conditional above and beyond the already unconstitutional Reconstruction Acts. The first Reconstruction Act (1867) only required a new constitution be drawn up by usurpers after the disfranchisement of the taxpayer. By default, everything outlined in Virginia’s constitution should have gone forward since the Republicans had control. What the Radicals had not anticipated was the fissure with the conservative Republicans within the state and the Democrats’ supporting the conservatives who sided with the taxpayer regarding a public school system the state could not afford.  

But Sumner’s utopia could not evolve without that school system indoctrinating the uninformed that all men were equal. State rights meant nothing to Charles Sumner, in fact, neither did the Constitution, and I quote, “...the states have no power except to do justice. Any power beyond this is contrary to the harmonies of the universe.” Hmmm, the harmonies of the universe? With the ghostly wails of 650,000+ echoing around him—in a war he welcomed—Sumner had a lot of nerve. Ah, but what are minor hiccups in imposing utopia on people too stupid not to realize such things really can exist in real life, if only everybody else is taught to think just like me.

Citing governor-elect Walker’s promises during his campaign against his Radical opponent, Sumner stated the new governor of Virginia would break down the proposed public school system. “How can you organize Reconstruction,” Sumner railed, “except on the everlasting foundation of education?” Sumner stated the Virginia election was a fraud and carried by an appeal to the “rebel people throughout the state that they should take the control of the state and in that way nullify the constitution and trample out the system of common schools.” I do think the constitution to which he refers is the new state constitution—after all, the only people nullifying the United States Constitution were Charles Sumner and those of his ilk. And the everlasting foundation of education? Education is only as valuable as what’s being taught. Am I the only one seeing “evil” here?
Oliver Morton of Indiana agreed. The states could not be free to go their own way once admitted to the Union. On 21 January 1869, Congress readmitted Virginia to the Union, conditionally, imposing suffrage and educational restrictions upon her sovereignty, setting a precedent that the now misused Guarantee Clause remained alive even after a state was readmitted. Not that it mattered, state sovereignty had been violated since 1861. What’s amazing is that Northern states failed to shout the alarm in the wake of these egregious congressional overreaches.  

In debating the Mississippi bill and application of the “Guarantee Clause” to her, a state rights advocate asked John Howard, senator from Michigan, if he would like Congress to regulate the public school system of Michigan. “Oh yes,” said he, and I will paraphrase, in part—if his state ever did anything as reactionary as to discontinue public education he’d be the first one to appeal to Congress to “apply the corrective and to exercise this great power of guarantying a republican form of government”. Set Michigan straight, in other words, under the newly revised meaning of the Guarantee Clause.  You want my opinion as to what would have “set Michigan straight” at the time? The state legislature’s calling Senator Howard’s ass home and putting him to pasture, that’s what. Such men were saying the Guarantee Clause allowed Congress to dictate public education to the states because such education is necessary to insure a republican form of government (and any other prerequisite they determined was necessary to insure a republican government).  

Howard went so far as to say that the Guarantee Clause was “without limitation.” Senator Richard Yates from Illinois pooh-poohed interference from the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of such application of the Guarantee Clause [so somebody had brought it up]. The precedent had been set on the Guarantee Clause long before the war. The Supreme Court had rarely agreed to look at it, the clause wrapped up in (I’m speaking for myself here, not being a lawyer) legal mumbo jumbo such as “non-justiciable,” and its being a political matter belonging in the Congress. It includes the legal concept of “standing,” meaning the plaintiff wouldn’t be hurt by the law, therefore nullifying the reason for the suit. In other words, there was/is nothing a court can do, and if it did anything it would be nothing.

I’m sorry? In Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, it is the state being discussed—the state’s guarantee for a republican form of government, right? If the state brought suit against Congress for abusing the clause, doesn’t that make the state the plaintiff and Congress is indeed hurting the state, for all intents and purposes, by terminating its sovereignty? Couple that with a horse’s behind making a comment that the Guarantee Clause “is without limitation.” What those traitors had done was taken a benign clause in the Constitution, twisted it into a lie, then made that lie omnipotent. Giddy with the possibilities, they intended to use it at their will, forever. No one who knows anything about the history of the Constitutional Convention and the states’ subsequent ratification of the Constitution could possibly believe that clause was intended to be used in the manner that group of fanatics were using it. There would have been no reason for a Tenth Amendment, because the states (those thirteen original) would have never ratified the Constitution. What hogwash spouted by despicable men!  [Recall, too, that Salmon P. Chase is Chief Justice at this time, so I doubt the good guys would have found any satisfaction with the Supreme Court. It was the Northern states that needed to act, and they failed to do so.]

Speaking of which, Yates, that pathetic excuse of a U. S. senator from Illinois, went so far as to imply that the behavior of some Northern states might be in need of remedial “Guarantee Clause” action, too (especially those allowing parochial schools to have too much say). I think Illinois’ legislature, like Michigan’s, was remiss in not calling its senator home. 

Readers, I trust you now have a better picture of the backdrop against which the fight for Mississippi’s government was being carried out in Washington that winter of 1868-1869, then beyond. Next post I will return specifically to the Mississippi question. 

Thanks for reading,  






  1. Charlsie:

    Have you compiled your series in book form?

    1. Hi, no. I've thought about pulling it all together and making it a book, but it would have to be qualified as an opinion piece. You know I'm a fiction writer? To do justice to a book, I'd need to do more indepth research (hitting university libraries and plundering unpublished dissertations (I'd love to do that), note taking and make bibliographies, etc. I do wish a younger "Southern" historian would tackle it--especially looking at the era Constitutionally, but I don't have enough years left on the planet to do it justice. That's why the blogging format works so well for me--I can look at the history, weed through the arguments over the years, and come up with my own interpretation and present it as such. I hope I get people thinking about the subject and at least seeing that there is another side--and put forth the thought that looking at resistence to Reconstruction as a violation of "Civil Rights" is irrelevant, because that is not what this nation was about (again, MHO). Not supposed to be, anyway--CR is a result of that era, not the Revolution. Thanks for reading.

  2. Great article explaining how the central government twisted the Constitution [further] to take power from the States. So the means of teaching propaganda was put in place shortly after the War, insuring the Northern view of history.


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