In his 1852 address to the Alumni Society of the College of Charleston William Porcher Miles spoke out against the desire by one nation to impose their preferred form of government upon foreign nations. It reads today like a strong rebuke of both neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism of the kinds which George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton used to promote ill-fated interventions in the Arab world. He stated that “the Form of Government of a people ought not to be determined by foreign and extrinsic influences.” He cautioned that this was not a “broad principle” against all foreign intervention for all time but insisted that “Political Crusades are impolitic and dangerous.” Miles urged,
The true policy of a nation is to a great degree selfish. Let her chief aims be to conserve or to perfect her own Constitution; to elevate and improve the condition of her own people. The finite intellect of man is incapable of marking out for them the destinies of all Races and Peoples.
Miles presented a conservative world-view in which man is a limited and natural being, divided into races and nations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to government for the whole planet; there is no end of history. The South Carolinian proclaimed that “there is not any One specific form of Government into which… you can force the Body Politic. It not only may differ – but must differ – with different People and different Social Organizations.” He pointed out that “Nations have grown great and powerful, and fulfilled their missions in furthering Civilization and the elevation of man’s nature under various and opposite forms of Government.” We should generally “leave other nations to work out for themselves, as we have done, the problem as to what Political Form is best adapted to their peculiar growth and development.”
Miles went on to attack the notion that “Liberty is the birth-right of Mankind.” He saw “Unlimited Equality in Social Privileges and Political Power” as a “levelling and disorganizing doctrine… which, if unchecked, will uproot and destroy all that is venerable and time-honored in politics – all that is conservative in Society – all that is pure in Morals – nay, even the very bulwarks of Religious Faith.” Miles stressed that “Political Liberty… is not an Inalienable Right, but an Acquired Privilege” and condemned Thomas Jefferson’s assertion to the contrary as a “monstrous and dangerous fallacy” that “has, even among us, by thinking men been long detected and abandoned.”
William Porcher Miles – a medical volunteer, Mayor of Charleston, US and CS congressman, university president and plantation manager – was a true Southern renaissance man. His conservative world-view and considerable intellect offers insight for those in the Alt-South today as we work to re-connect with who we are and discover the best way forward in the world of today and tomorrow.
NOTE: As Hunter Wallace has explained, “[t]he Alt-South isn’t a membership organization. It is… a space for everyone in Dixie who isn’t some kind of leftist or mainstream conservative (i.e., nationalists, populists, reactionaries) to come together to discuss our past, present and common future. Southern Nationalists [are] at the core of the Alt-South.”