Just War

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Much
of “classical international law” theory, developed by the Catholic
Scholastics, notably the 16th-century Spanish Scholastics such as
Vitoria and Suarez, and then the Dutch Protestant Scholastic Grotius
and by 18th- and 19th-century jurists, was an explanation of the
criteria for a just war. For war, as a grave act of killing, needs
to be justified.

My
own view of war can be put simply: a just war exists when
a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by
another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination.
A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to
impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already
existing coercive rule over them.

During
my lifetime, my ideological and political activism has focused on
opposition to America's wars, first because I have believed our
waging them to be unjust, and, second, because war, in the penetrating
phrase of the libertarian Randolph Bourne in World War I, has always
been “the health of the State,” an instrument for the aggrandizement
of State power over the health, the lives, and the prosperity, of
their subject citizens and social institutions. Even a just war
cannot be entered into lightly; an unjust one must therefore be
anathema.

There
have been only two wars in American history that were, in my view,
assuredly and unquestionably proper and just; not only that, the
opposing side waged a war that was clearly and notably unjust. Why?
Because we did not have to question whether a threat against our
liberty and property was clear or present; in both of these wars,
Americans were trying to rid themselves of an unwanted domination
by another people. And in both cases, the other side ferociously
tried to maintain their coercive rule over Americans. In each case,
one side — “our side” if you will — was notably just, the other
side — “their side” — unjust.

To
be specific, the two just wars in American history were the American
Revolution, and the War for Southern Independence.

I
would like to mention a few vital features of the treatment of war
by the classical international natural lawyers, and to contrast
this great tradition with the very different “international law”
that has been dominant since 1914, by the dominant partisans of
the League of Nations and the United Nations.

The
classical international lawyers from the 16th through the 19th centuries
were trying to cope with the implications of the rise and dominance
of the modern nation-state. They did not seek to “abolish war,”
the very notion of which they would have considered absurd and Utopian.
Wars will always exist among groups, peoples, nations; the desideratum,
in addition to trying to persuade them to stay within the compass
of “just wars,” was to curb and limit the impact of existing wars
as much as possible. Not to try to “abolish war,” but to constrain
war with limitations imposed by civilization.

Specifically,
the classical international lawyers developed two ideas, which they
were broadly successful in getting nations to adopt: (1) above all,
don't target civilians. If you must fight, let the rulers and their
loyal or hired retainers slug it out, but keep civilians on both
sides out of it, as much as possible. The growth of democracy, the
identification of citizens with the State, conscription, and the
idea of a “nation in arms,” all whittled away this excellent tenet
of international law.

(2)
Preserve the rights of neutral states and nations. In the modern
corruption of international law that has prevailed since 1914, “neutrality”
has been treated as somehow deeply immoral. Nowadays, if countries
A and B get into a fight, it becomes every nation's moral obligation
to figure out, quickly, which country is the “bad guy,” and then
if, say, A is condemned as the bad guy, to rush in and pummel A
in defense of the alleged good guy B.

Classical
international law, which should be brought back as quickly as possible,
was virtually the opposite. In a theory which tried to limit war,
neutrality was considered not only justifiable but a positive virtue.
In the old days, “he kept us out of war” was high tribute to a president
or political leader; but now, all the pundits and professors condemn
any president who “stands idly by” while “people are being killed”
in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, or the hot spot of the day. In the old
days, “standing idly by” was considered a mark of high statesmanship.
Not only that: neutral states had “rights” which were mainly upheld,
since every warring country knew that someday it too would be neutral.
A warring state could not interfere with neutral shipping to an
enemy state; neutrals could ship to such an enemy with impunity
all goods except “contraband,”
which was strictly defined as arms and ammunition, period. Wars
were kept limited in those days, and neutrality was extolled.

In
modern international law, where “bad-guy” nations must be identified
quickly and then fought by all, there are two rationales for such
world-wide action, both developed by Woodrow Wilson, whose foreign
policy and vision of international affairs has been adopted by every
President since. The first is “collective security against aggression.”
The notion is that every war, no matter what, must have one “aggressor”
and one or more “victims,” so that naming the aggressor becomes
a prelude to a defense of “heroic little” victims. The analogy is
with the cop-on-the-corner. A policeman sees A mugging B; he rushes
after the aggressor, and the rest of the citizens join in the pursuit.
In the same way, supposedly, nations, as they band together in “collective
security” arrangements, whether they be the League, the United Nations,
or NATO, identify the “aggressor” nation and then join together
as an “international police force,” like the cop-on-the-corner,
to zap the criminal.

In
real life, however, it's not so easy to identify one warring “aggressor.”
Causes become tangled, and history intervenes. Above all, a nation's
current border cannot be considered as evidently just as a person's
life and property. Therein lies the problem. How about the very
different borders ten years, twenty years, or even centuries ago?
How about wars where claims of all sides are plausible? But any
complication of this sort messes up the plans of our professional
war crowd. To get Americans stirred up about intervening in a war
thousands of miles away about which they know nothing and care less,
one side must be depicted as the clear-cut bad guy, and the other
side pure and good; otherwise, Americans will not be moved to intervene
in a war that is really none of their business. Thus, feverish attempts
by American pundits and alleged foreign-policy “experts” to get
us to intervene against the demonized Serbs ran aground when the
public began to realize that all three sides in the Bosnian
war were engaging in “ethnic cleansing” whenever they got the chance.
This is even forgetting the fatuity of the propaganda about the
“territorial integrity” of a so-called “Bosnian state” which has
never existed even formally until a year or two ago, and of course
in actuality does not exist at all.

If
classical international law limited and checked warfare, and kept
it from spreading, modern international law, in an attempt to stamp
out “aggression” and to abolish war, only insures, as the great
historian Charles Beard put it, a futile policy of “perpetual war
for perpetual peace.”

The
second Wilsonian excuse for perpetual war, particularly relevant
to the “Civil War,” is even more Utopian: the idea that it is the
moral obligation of America and of all other nations to impose “democracy”
and “human rights” throughout the globe. In short, in a world where
“democracy” is generally meaningless, and “human rights” of any
genuine sort virtually non-existent, that we are obligated to take
up the sword and wage a perpetual war to force Utopia on the entire
world by guns, tanks, and bombs.

The
Somalian intervention was a perfect case study in the workings of
this Wilsonian dream. We began the intervention by extolling a “new
kind of army” (a new model army if you will) engaged in a new kind
of high moral intervention: the U.S. soldier with a CARE package
in one hand, and a gun in the other. The new “humanitarian” army,
bringing food, peace, democracy, and human rights to the benighted
peoples of Somalia, and doing it all the more nobly and altruistically
because there was not a scrap of national interest in it for Americans.
It was this prospect of a purely altruistic intervention — of universal
love imposed by the bayonet — that swung almost the entire “anti-war”
Left into the military intervention camp. Well, it did not take
long for our actions to have consequences, and the end of the brief
Somalian intervention provided a great lesson if we only heed it:
the objects of our “humanitarianism” being shot down by American
guns, and striking back by highly effective guerrilla war against
American troops, culminating in savaging the bodies of American
soldiers. So much for “humanitarianism,” for a war to impose democracy
and human rights; so much for the new model army.

In
both of these cases, the modern interventionists have won by seizing
the moral high ground; theirs is the cosmic “humanitarian”
path of moral principle; those of us who favor American neutrality
are now derided as “selfish,” “narrow,” and “immoral.” In the old
days, however, interventionists were more correctly considered propagandists
for despotism, mass murder, and perpetual war, if not spokesmen
for special interest groups, or agents of the “merchants of death.”
Scarcely a high ground.

The
cause of “human rights” is precisely the critical argument by which,
in retrospect, Abraham Lincoln's War of Northern Aggression against
the South is justified and even glorified. The “humanitarian” goes
forth and rights the wrong of slavery, doing so through mass murder,
the destruction of institutions and property, and the wreaking of
havoc which has still not disappeared.

Isabel
Paterson, in The
God of the Machine
, one of the great books on political
philosophy of this century, zeroed in on what she aptly called “The
Humanitarian with the Guillotine.” “The humanitarian,” Mrs. Paterson
wrote, “wishes to be a prime mover in the lives of others. He cannot
admit either the divine or the natural order, by which men have
the power to help themselves. The humanitarian puts himself in the
place of God.” But Mrs. Paterson notes, the humanitarian is “confronted
by two awkward facts: first that the competent do not need his assistance;
and second, that the majority of people, if unperverted, positively
do not want to be u2018done good' by the humanitarian.” Having considered
what the “good” of others might be, and who is to decide on the
good and on what to do about it, Mrs. Paterson points out: “Of course
what the humanitarian actually proposes is that he shall
do what he thinks is good for everybody. It is at this point that
the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.” Hence, she concludes,
“the humanitarian in theory is the terrorist in action.”

There
is an important point about old-fashioned, or classical, international
law which applies to any sort of war, even a just one:

Even
if country A is waging a clearly just war against country B, and
B's cause is unjust, this fact by no means imposes any sort of moral
obligation on any other nation, including those who wish to abide
by just policies, to intervene in that war. On the contrary, in
the old days neutrality was always considered a more noble course,
if a nation had no overriding interest of its own in the fray, there
was no moral obligation whatever to intervene. A nation's highest
and most moral course was to remain neutral; its citizens might
cheer in their heart for A's just cause, or, if someone were overcome
by passion for A's cause he could rush off on his own to the front
to fight, but generally citizens of nation C were expected to cleave
to their own nation's interests over the cause of a more abstract
justice. Certainly, they were expected not to form a propaganda
pressure group to try to bulldoze their nation into intervening;
if champions of country A were sufficiently ardent, they could go
off on their own to fight, but they could not commit their fellow
countrymen to do the same.

Many
of my friends and colleagues are hesitant to concede the existence
of universal natural rights, lest they find themselves forced to
support American, or world-wide intervention, to try to enforce
them. But for classical natural law international jurists, that
consequence did not follow at all. If, for example, Tutsis are slaughtering
Hutus in Rwanda or Burundi, or vice versa, these natural
lawyers would indeed consider such acts as violations of the natural
rights of the slaughtered; but that fact in no way implies any
moral or natural-law obligation for any other people in the world
to rush in to try to enforce such rights. We might encapsulate this
position into a slogan: “Rights may be universal, but their enforcement
must be local” or, to adopt the motto of the Irish rebels: Sinn
Fein, “ourselves alone.” A group of people may have rights,
but it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to defend
or safeguard such rights.

To
put it another way, I have always believed that when the left claims
that all sorts of entities — animals, alligators, trees, plants,
rocks, beaches, the earth, or “the ecology” — have “rights,” the
proper response is this: when those entities act like the Americans
who set forth their declaration of rights, when they speak for themselves
and take up arms to enforce them, then and only then can we take
such claims seriously.

I
want to now return to America's two just wars. It is plainly evident
that the American Revolution, using my definition, was a just war,
a war of peoples forming an independent nation and casting off the
bonds of another people insisting on perpetuating their rule over
them. Obviously, the Americans, while welcoming French or other
support, were prepared to take on the daunting task of overthrowing
the rule of the most powerful empire on earth, and to do it alone
if necessary.

What
I want to focus on here is not the grievances that led the American
rebels to the view that it had become “necessary for One People
to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.”
What I want to stress here is the ground on which the Americans
stood for this solemn and fateful act of separation. The Americans
were steeped in the natural-law philosophy of John Locke and the
Scholastics, and in the classical republicanism of Greece and Rome.
There were two major political theories in Britain and in Europe
during this time. One was the older, but by this time obsolete,
absolutist view: the king was the father of his nation, and absolute
obedience was owed to the king by the lesser orders; any rebellion
against the king was equivalent to Satan's rebellion against God.

The
other, natural law, view countered that sovereignty originated not
in the king but in the people, but that the people had delegated
their powers and rights to the king. Hugo Grotius and conservative
natural lawyers believed that the delegation of sovereignty, once
transferred, was irrevocable, so that sovereignty must reside permanently
in the king. The more radical libertarian theorists, such as Father
Mariana, and John Locke and his followers, believed, quite sensibly,
that since the original delegation was voluntary
and contractual, the people had the right to take back that sovereignty
should the king grossly violate his trust.

The
American revolutionaries, in separating themselves from Great Britain
and forming their new nation, adopted the Lockean doctrine. In fact,
if they hadn't done so, they would not have been able to
form their new nation. It is well known that the biggest moral and
psychological problem the Americans had, and could only bring themselves
to overcome after a full year of bloody war, was to violate their
oaths of allegiance to the British king. Breaking with the British
Parliament, their de facto ruler, posed no problem; Parliament
they didn't care about. But the king was their inherited sovereign
lord, the person to whom they had all sworn fealty. It was the king
to whom they owed allegiance; thus, the list of grievances in the
Declaration of Independence mentioned only the king, even though
Parliament was in reality the major culprit.

Hence,
the crucial psychological importance, to the American revolutionaries,
of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, which not only adopted the
Lockean view of a justified reclaiming of sovereignty by the American
people, but also particularly zeroed in on the office of the king.
In the words of the New Left, Paine delegitimized and desanctified
the king in American eyes. The king of Great Britain, Paine wrote,
is only the descendent of “nothing better than the principal ruffian
of some restless gang; whose savage manner or preeminence in subtlety
obtained him the title of chief among plunderers.” And now the kings,
including the “Royal Brute of Great Britain,” are but “crowned ruffians.”

In
making their revolution, then, the Americans cast their lot, permanently,
with a contractual theory or justification for government. Government
is not something imposed from above, by some divine act of conferring
sovereignty; but contractual, from below, by “consent of the governed.”
That means that American polities inevitably become republics, not
monarchies. What happened, in fact, is that the American Revolution
resulted in something new on earth. The people of each of the 13
colonies formed new, separate, contractual, republican governments.
Based on libertarian doctrines and on republican models, the people
of the 13 colonies each set up independent sovereign states: with
powers of each government strictly limited, with most rights and
powers reserved to the people, and with checks, balances, and written
constitutions severely limiting state power.

These
13 separate republics, in order to wage their common war against
the British Empire, each sent representatives to the Continental
Congress, and then later formed a Confederation, again with severely
limited central powers, to help fight the British. The hotly contested
decision to scrap the Articles of Confederation and to craft a new
Constitution demonstrates conclusively that the central government
was not supposed to be perpetual, not to be the sort of permanent
one-way trap that Grotius had claimed turned popular sovereignty
over to the king forevermore. In fact, it would be very peculiar
to hold that the American Revolutionaries had repudiated the idea
that a pledge of allegiance to the king was contractual and revocable,
and break their vows to the king, only to turn around a few short
years later to enter a compact that turned out to be an irrevocable
one-way ticket for a permanent central government power. Revocable
and contractual to a king, but irrevocable to some piece of paper!

And
finally, does anyone seriously believe for one minute that any of
the 13 states would have ratified the Constitution had they believed
that it was a perpetual one-way Venus fly trap — a one-way ticket
to sovereign suicide? The Constitution was barely ratified as it
is!

So,
if the Articles of Confederation could be treated as a scrap of
paper, if delegation to the confederate government in the 1780s
was revocable, how could the central government set up under the
Constitution, less than a decade later, claim that its powers
were permanent and irrevocable? Sheer logic insists that: if a state
could enter a confederation it could later withdraw from it; the
same must be true for a state adopting the Constitution.

And
yet of course, that monstrous illogic is precisely the doctrine
proclaimed by the North, by the Union, during the War Between the
States.

In
1861, the Southern states, believing correctly that their cherished
institutions were under grave threat and assault from the federal
government, decided to exercise their natural, contractual, and
constitutional right to withdraw, to “secede” from that Union. The
separate Southern states then exercised their contractual right
as sovereign republics to come together in another confederation,
the Confederate States of America. If the American Revolutionary
War was just, then it follows as the night the day that the Southern
cause, the War for Southern Independence, was just, and for the
same reason: casting off the “political bonds” that connected the
two peoples. In neither case was this decision made for “light or
transient causes.” And in both cases, the courageous seceders pledged
to each other “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.”

What
of the grievances of the two sets of seceders? Were they comparable?
The central grievance of the American rebels was the taxing power:
the systematic plunder of their property by the British government.
Whether it was the tax on stamps, or the tax on imports, or finally
the tax on imported tea, taxation was central. The slogan “no taxation
without representation” was misleading; in the last analysis, we
didn't want “representation” in Parliament; we wanted not to be
taxed by Great Britain. The other grievances, such as opposition
to general search warrants, or to overriding of the ancient Anglo-Saxon
principle of trial by jury, were critical because they involved
the power to search merchants' properties for goods that had avoided
payment of the customs taxes, that is for “smuggled” goods, and
trial by jury was vital because no American jury would ever convict
such smugglers.

One
of the central grievances of the South, too, was the tariff that
Northerners imposed on Southerners whose major income came from
exporting cotton abroad. The tariff at one and the same time drove
up prices of manufactured goods, forced Southerners and other Americans
to pay more for such goods, and threatened to cut down Southern
exports. The first great constitutional crisis with the South came
when South Carolina battled against the well named Tariff of Abomination
of 1828. As a result of South Carolina's resistance, the North was
forced to reduce the tariff, and finally, the Polk administration
adopted a two-decade long policy of virtual free trade.

John
C. Calhoun, the great intellectual leader of South Carolina, and
indeed of the entire South, pointed out the importance of a very
low level of taxation. All taxes, by their very nature, are paid,
on net, by one set of people, the “taxpayers,” and the proceeds
go to another set of people, what Calhoun justly called the “tax-consumers.”
Among the net tax-consumers, of course, are the politicians and
bureaucrats who live full-time off the proceeds. The higher the
level of taxation, the higher the percentage which the country's
producers have to give the parasitic ruling class that enforces
and lives off of taxes. In zeroing in on the tariff, Calhoun pointed
out that “the North has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements,
in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been
imposed on the South, and an undue proportion appropriated to the
North, and for the monopolization of Northern industry.”

What
of the opposition to these two just wars? Both were unjust since
in both the case of the British and of the North, they were waging
fierce war to maintain their coercive and unwanted rule
over another people. But if the British wanted to hold on and expand
their empire, what were the motivations of the North? Why, in the
famous words of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, at least
early in the struggle, didn't the North “let their erring sisters
go in peace?”

The
North, in particular the North's driving force, the “Yankees” —
that ethnocultural group who either lived in New England or migrated
from there to upstate New York, northern and eastern Ohio, northern
Indiana, and northern Illinois — had been swept by a new form of
Protestantism. This was a fanatical and emotional neo-Puritanism
driven by a fervent “postmillenialism” which held that as a precondition
for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, man must set up a thousand-year
Kingdom of God on Earth.

The
Kingdom is to be a perfect society. In order to be perfect, of course,
this Kingdom must be free of sin; sin, therefore, must be stamped
out, and as quickly as possible. Moreover, if you didn't try your
darndest to stamp out sin by force you yourself would not be saved.
It was very clear to these neo-Puritans that in order to stamp out
sin, government, in the service of the saints, is the essential
coercive instrument to perform this purgative task. As historians
have summed up the views of all the most prominent of these millennialists,
“government is God's major instrument of salvation.”

Sin
was very broadly defined by the Yankee neo-Puritans as anything
which might interfere with a person's free will to embrace salvation,
anything which, in the words of the old Shadow radio serial, could
“cloud men's minds.” The particular cloud-forming occasions of sin,
for these millennialists, were liquor (“demon rum”), any activity
on the Sabbath except reading the Bible and going to Church, slavery,
and the Roman Catholic Church.

If
anti-slavery, prohibitionism, and anti-Catholicism were grounded
in fanatical post-millennial Protestantism, the paternalistic big
government required for this social program on the state and local
levels led logically to a big government paternalism in national
economic affairs. Whereas the Democratic Party in the 19th century
was known as the “party of personal liberty,” of states' rights,
of minimal government, of free markets and free trade, the Republican
Party was known as the “party of great moral ideas,” which amounted
to the stamping-out of sin. On the economic level, the Republicans
adopted the Whig program of statism and big government: protective
tariffs, subsidies to big business,
strong central government, large-scale public works, and cheap credit
spurred by government.

The
Northern war against slavery partook of fanatical millennialist
fervor, of a cheerful willingness to uproot institutions, to commit
mayhem and mass murder, to plunder and loot and destroy, all in
the name of high moral principle and the birth of a perfect world.
The Yankee fanatics were veritable Patersonian humanitarians with
the guillotine: the Anabaptists, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks of
their era. This fanatical spirit of Northern aggression for an allegedly
redeeming cause is summed up in the pseudo-Biblical and truly blasphemous
verses of that quintessential Yankee Julia Ward Howe, in her so-called
“Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Modern
left-liberal historians of course put this case in a slightly different
way. Take for example, the eminent abolitionist historian of the
Civil War James McPherson. Here's the way McPherson revealingly
puts it: “Negative liberty [he means "liberty"] was the dominant
theme in early American history — freedom from constraints
on individual rights imposed by a powerful state.” “The Bill of
Rights,” McPherson goes on, “is the classic expression of negative
liberty, or Jeffersonian humanistic liberalism. These first ten
amendments to the Constitution protect individual liberties by placing
a straitjacket of u2018shall not' on the federal government.” “In 1861,”
McPherson continues, “Southern states invoked the negative liberties
of state sovereignty and individual rights of property [i.e., slaves]
to break up the United States.”

What
was McPherson's hero Abraham Lincoln's response? Lincoln, he writes,
“thereby gained an opportunity to invoke the positive liberty [he
means "statist tyranny"] of reform liberalism, exercised through
the power of the army and the state, to overthrow the negative liberties
of disunion and ownership of slaves.” Another New Model Army at
work! McPherson calls for a “blend” of positive and negative liberties,
but as we have seen, any such “blend” is nonsense, for statism and
liberty are always at odds. The more that “reform liberalism” “empowers”
one set of people, the less “negative liberty” there is for everyone
else. It should be mentioned that the southern United States was
the only place in the 19th century where slavery was abolished by
fire and by “terrible swift sword.” In every other part of the New
World, slavery was peacefully bought out by agreement with the slaveholders.
But in these other countries, in the West Indies or Brazil, for
example, there were no Puritan millennialists to do their bloody
work, armed with gun in one hand and hymn book in the other.

In
the Republican Party, the “party of great moral ideas,” different
men and different factions emphasized different aspects of this
integrated despotic world-outlook. In the fateful Republican convention
of 1860, the major candidates for president were two veteran abolitionists:
William Seward, of New York, and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio. Seward,
however, was distrusted by the anti-Catholic hotheads because he
somehow did not care about the alleged Catholic menace; on the other
hand, while Chase was happy to play along with the former Know-Nothings,
who stressed the anti-Catholic pant of the coalition, he was distrusted
by Sewardites and others who were indifferent to the Catholic question.
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was a dark horse who was able to successfully
finesse the Catholic question. His major emphasis was on
Whig economic statism: high tariffs, huge subsidies to railroads,
public works. As one of the nation's leading lawyers for Illinois
Central and other big railroads, indeed, Lincoln was virtually the
candidate from Illinois Central and the other large railroads.

One
reason for Lincoln's victory at the convention was that Iowa railroad
entrepreneur Grenville M. Dodge helped swing the Iowa delegation
to Lincoln. In return, early in the Civil War, Lincoln appointed
Dodge to army general. Dodge's task was to clear the Indians from
the designated path of the country's first heavily subsidized federally
chartered trans-continental railroad, the Union Pacific. In this
way, conscripted Union troops and hapless taxpayers were coerced
into socializing the costs on constructing and operating the Union
Pacific. This sort of action is now called euphemistically “the
cooperation of government and industry.”

But
Lincoln's major focus was on raising taxes, in particular raising
and enforcing the tariff. His convention victory was particularly
made possible by support from the Pennsylvania delegation. Pennsylvania
had long been the home and the political focus of the nation's iron
and steel industry which, ever since its inception during the War
of 1812, had been chronically inefficient, and had therefore constantly
been bawling for high tariffs and, later, import quotas. Virtually
the first act of the Lincoln administration was to pass the Morrill
protective tariff act, doubling existing tariff rates, and creating
the highest tariff rates in American history.

In
his First Inaugural, Lincoln was conciliatory about maintaining
slavery; what he was hard-line about toward the South was insistence
on collecting all the customs tariffs in that region. As Lincoln
put it, the federal government would “collect the duties and imposts,
but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be
no invasion, no using of force against . . . people anywhere.” The
significance of the federal forts is that they provided the
soldiers to enforce the customs tariffs; thus, Fort Sumter was at
the entrance to Charleston Harbor, the major port, apart from New
Orleans, in the entire South. The federal troops at Sumter were
needed to enforce the tariffs that were supposed to be levied at
Charleston Harbor.

Of
course, Abraham Lincoln's conciliatory words on slavery cannot be
taken at face value. Lincoln was a master politician, which means
that he was a consummate conniver, manipulator, and liar. The federal
forts were the key to his successful prosecution of the war. Lying
to South Carolina, Abraham Lincoln managed to do what Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Henry Stimson did at Pearl Harbor 80 years later —
maneuvered the Southerners into firing the first shot. In this way,
by manipulating the South into firing first against a federal fort,
Lincoln made the South appear to be “aggressors” in the eyes of
the numerous waverers and moderates in the North.

Outside
of New England and territories populated by transplanted New Englanders,
the idea of forcing the South to stay in the Union was highly unpopular.
In many middle-tier states, including Maryland, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania, there was a considerable sentiment to mimic the South
by forming a middle Confederacy to isolate the pesky and fanatical
Yankees. Even after the war began, the Mayor of New York City and
many other dignitaries of the city proposed that the city secede
from the Union and make peace and engage in free trade with the
South. Indeed, Jefferson Davis's lawyer after the war was what we
would now call the “paleo-libertarian” leader of the New York City
bar, Irish-Catholic Charles O'Conor, who ran for President in 1878
on the Straight Democrat ticket, in protest that his beloved Democratic
Party's nominee for President was the abolitionist, protectionist,
socialist, and fool Horace Greeley.

The
Lincoln Administration and the Republican Party took advantage of
the overwhelmingly Republican Congress after the secession of the
South to push through almost the entire Whig economic program. Lincoln
signed no less than ten tariff-raising bills during his administration.
Heavy “sin” taxes were levied on alcohol and tobacco, the income
tax was levied for the first time in American history, huge land
grants and monetary subsidies were handed out to transcontinental
railroads (accompanied by a vast amount of attendant corruption),
and the government went off the gold standard and virtually nationalized
the banking system to establish a machine for printing new money
and to provide cheap credit for the business elite. And furthermore,
the New Model Army
and the war effort rested on a vast and unprecedented amount of
federal coercion against Northerners as well as the South; a huge
army was conscripted, dissenters and advocates of a negotiated peace
with the South were jailed, and the precious Anglo-Saxon right of
habeas corpus was abolished for the duration.

While
it is true that Lincoln himself was not particularly religious,
that did not really matter because he adopted all the attitudes
and temperament of his evangelical allies. He was stern and sober,
he was personally opposed to alcohol and tobacco, and he was opposed
to the private carrying of guns. An ambitious seeker of the main
chance from early adulthood, Lincoln acted viciously toward his
own humble frontier family in Kentucky. He abandoned his fiance
in order to marry a wealthier Mary Todd, whose family were friends
of the eminent Henry Clay, he repudiated his brother, and he refused
to attend his dying father or his father's funeral, monstrously
declaring that such an experience “would be more painful than pleasant.”
No doubt!

Lincoln,
too, was a typical example of a humanitarian with the guillotine
in another dimension: a familiar modern “reform liberal” type whose
heart bleeds for and yearns to “uplift” remote mankind, while he
lies to and treats abominably actual people whom he knew. And so
Abraham Lincoln, in a phrase prefiguring our own beloved Mario Cuomo,
declared that the Union was really “a family, bound indissolubly
together by the most intimate organic bonds.” Kick your own family,
and then transmute familial spiritual feelings toward a hypostatized
and mythical entity, “The Union,” which then must be kept intact
regardless of concrete human cost or sacrifice.

Indeed,
there is a vital critical difference between the two unjust causes
we have described: the British and the North. The British, at least,
were fighting on behalf of a cause which, even if wrong and unjust,
was coherent and intelligible: that is, the sovereignty of a hereditary
monarch. What was the North's excuse for their monstrous war of
plunder and mass murder against their fellow Americans? Not allegiance
to an actual, real person, the king, but allegiance to a non-existent,
mystical, quasi-divine alleged entity, “the Union.” The King was
at least a real person, and the merits or demerits of a particular
king or the monarchy in general can be argued. But where is “the
Union” located? How are we to gauge the Union's deeds? To whom is
this Union accountable?

The
Union was taken, by its Northern worshipers, from a contractual
institution that can either be cleaved to or scrapped, and turned
into a divinized entity, which must be worshipped, and which
must be permanent, unquestioned, all-powerful. There is no heresy
greater, nor political theory more pernicious, than sacralizing
the secular. But this monstrous process is precisely what happened
when Abraham Lincoln and his northern colleagues made a god out
of the Union. If the British forces fought for bad King George,
the Union armies pillaged and murdered on behalf of this pagan idol,
this “Union,” this Moloch that demanded terrible human sacrifice
to sustain its power and its glory.

For
in this War Between the States, the South may have fought for its
sacred honor, but the Northern war was the very opposite of honorable.
We remember the care with which the civilized nations had developed
classical international law. Above all, civilians must not be targeted;
wars must be limited. But the North insisted on creating a conscript
army, a nation in arms, and broke the 19th-century rules of war
by specifically plundering and slaughtering civilians, by destroying
civilian life and institutions so as to reduce the South to submission.
Sherman's infamous March through Georgia was one of the great war
crimes, and crimes against humanity, of the past century-and-a-half.
Because by targeting and butchering civilians, Lincoln and Grant
and Sherman paved the way for all the genocidal honors of the monstrous
20th century. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about
memory, about never forgetting about history as retroactive punishment
for crimes of war and mass murder. As Lord Acton, the great libertarian
historian, put it, the historian, in the last analysis, must be
a moral judge. The muse of the historian, he wrote, is not Clio,
but Rhadamanthus, the legendary avenger of innocent blood. In that
spirit, we must always remember, we must never forget, we must put
in the dock and hang higher than Haman, those who, in modern times,
opened the Pandora's Box of genocide and the extermination of civilians:
Sherman, Grant, and Lincoln.

Perhaps,
some day, their statues, like Lenin's in Russia, will be
toppled and melted down; their insignias and battle flags will be
desecrated, their war songs tossed into the fire. And then Davis
and Lee and Jackson and Forrest, and all the heroes of the South,
“Dixie” and the Stars and Bars, will once again be truly honored
and remembered. The classic comment on that meretricious TV series
The Civil War was made by that marvelous and feisty Southern
writer Florence King. Asked her views on the series, she replied:
“I didn't have time to watch The Civil War. I'm too
busy getting ready for the next one.” In that spirit, I am sure
that one day, aided and abetted by Northerners like myself in the
glorious “copperhead” tradition, the South shall rise again.

Murray
N. Rothbard (1926-1995), the founder of modern libertarianism
and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author
of The
Ethics of Liberty
and For
a New Liberty
and many
other books and articles
. He was also academic vice president
of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian
Studies, and the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
.

Murray
Rothbard Archives


     

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