The Fairest Estate of Liberty

Lately, Hunter Wallace has written at length about the meaning of liberty in the Tidewater, Carolina and the Backcountry and how this concept had “nothing to do with classical liberalism, modern liberalism or libertarianism.”

Developing upon this idea, John Smith Preston, the son of a Virginia general who married in the wealthy Hampton family in South Carolina, was selected by his adopted State to be a Secession Commissioner to the Old Dominion. Preston was an attorney and a planter and also a member of the secessionist Minute Men in Columbia, SC. He was considered a great speaker and his presentation before a huge crowd in Richmond helped convince Virginia to secede from the Union. Preston noted that “the conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death” for Southerners and that abolitionism would lead to the “annihilation” of his people. Charles B. Dew, professor of Social Science at Williams College, writes in Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War:

The emotional climax of Preston’s address came toward the end. “Gentlemen of Virginia,” he called. The people of the South “are not canting fanatics, festering in the licentiousness of abolition and amalgamation; their liberty is not a painted strumpet, straggling through the streets; no does their truth need to baptize itself in pools of blood.” No, he cried, Southerners “are a calm, grave, deliberate and religious people, the holders of the most majestic civilization and the inheritors, by right, of the fairest estate of liberty.”

Preston continued from there to call upon Virginia to stand with the rest of the South in defense of its “sacred soil” and sovereign rights. But the above quote gets well at the concept of Southern liberty – a type of liberty which was not liberal and which had its roots in the ancient culture of Britain and developed among Southerners in their neo-classical New World civilization. Such liberty would likely be quite foreign to most Americans today.

NOTE: Get your SC “Liberty” flag here from Patriotic Flags

About Michael Cushman 153 Articles
South Carolinian. Southern nationalist. Anglican.

11 Comments

  1. “the most majestic civilization”

    What was so majestic about it? By one of its other sons, as was noted here, at Occidental Dissent, in December 2015, it was characterized as having, in effect, nothing of the marks of civilization. Preston’s extolling of the South sounds like the Old Testament’s delusional remarks about the splendor of the ancient Jewish kingdoms. It sounds, that is, like the pronouncement of a juvenile, who thinks his own grandparents are, by a great bit of luck on his part, the greatest grandparents ever.

    A handful of men were making a lot of money pushing Negroes around, and they wanted to continue doing so. That was your “neo-classical New World civilization.”

    PS At http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2015/12/05/wigfall-vs-de-bow-two-views-of-southern-economic-independence/ is the Occidental Dissent entry I mentioned above. The passage to which I was referring was an excerpt from a book called “Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States,” by one Michael Lind. The excerpt was as follows:

    “In 1861, former US senator from Texas Louis T. Wigfall told a British correspondent: “We are a peculiar people, sir! We are an agricultural people; we are a primitive but a civilized people. We have no cities – we don’t want them. We have no literature – we don’t need any yet … We want no manufactures; we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufacturing classes … As long as we have our rice, our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want from those nations with which we are in amity, and to lay up money besides.”

  2. Virginia and South Carolina were the big guns that got everyone on board with the CSA. Virginia was the heart and mind of the Upper South and the Mother of Dixie and South Carolina was the origin of the Deep South’s culture. Virginia influenced Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina was influenced by both states. Virginia-before the separation of Virginia and West Virginia had a large Union contingent, not for any love of the North, but mostly built up through years of economic animosity and isolation, plus the fact that Trans-Allegheny trade goods almost all went on the Ohio River, not over the Blue Ridge.

    Modern Virginia, if you compared a map of it was about 95% for secession, but a map of modern West Virginia would show the county vote there went somewhere around 60-70% for. If you look at the April 4th Secession vote, what is now West Virginia went about 85% against. Eastern Virginia always was at about 90-95% Had the modern state boundaries been in place in 1861, its likely Virginia would have seceded much earlier, possibly even as early as the foundation of the Seven State Confederacy. Unfortunately the Trans-Allegheny had to be dragged into the CSA kicking and screaming.

    What is always the strangest to me is how resistant North Carolina was to joining the Confederacy, but when she did, she gave the most men per capita than any other state. Of course North Carolina and Tennessee, which was her child came in just a very short time apart.

    I think Kentucky would have came into the CSA much earlier but for the influence of the Louisville Germans in the Legislature gumming up the works.

  3. “In 1861, former US senator from Texas Louis T. Wigfall told a British correspondent: “We are a peculiar people, sir! We are an agricultural people; we are a primitive but a civilized people. We have no cities – we don’t want them. We have no literature – we don’t need any yet … We want no manufactures; we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufacturing classes … As long as we have our rice, our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want from those nations with which we are in amity, and to lay up money besides.”

    John may I explain something? The Confederacy was an attempt to PRESERVE the traditional culture of Europe, which by 1860 Europe was casting off like a girl changing 10 outfits before a date. What did Dixie need with new authors when you had the writings of Shakespeare,Keats, Burns, Scott, and the philosophy of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero? What did it need with major cities? Look at what problems cities have caused humanity. Wigfall’s reference to a mechanical or manufacturing class meant this. BEFORE Manufacturing in the North became big ca 1840, a man had a trade or he was a grunt day laborer. You were responsible for finding work to do and selling your wares. After 1840, hordes of European Immigrants were brought in to work in factories, men with few skills who relied upon the factory owner to make wise business decisions or they starved. Why did Dixie want that? There were thousands of White Trash paupers in DIXIE who in some ways lived worse than the Irish in New York and Boston at least the Irish had schools, HOWEVER the life of the so-called White Trash was much more happy than a grubby mill hand’s life. The woods were full of game, the creeks with fish and hunting game you could get furs to trade. A man who was good with a gun and a cane pole could always have meat, and a man who knew how to plant a garden and fruit trees ate well.

    WHY DID DIXIE NEED ANY OF THOSE THINGS WHEN THEY HAD THE BEST ALREADY? WIGFALL WAS RIGHT

  4. ‘A handful of men were making a lot of money pushing Negroes around, and they wanted to continue doing so. That was your “neo-classical New World civilization.”’

    This is so completely and willfully wrong, John Bonaccorsi, Philadelphia, that it scarcely deserves any reply. Even the great haters of Dixie have frequently remarked on numerous positive qualities had by our civilization while insulting us or disagreeing with the use of Negro slavr labor. It is one thing to say that we should never have taken alien, primative tribesmen from the jungle and put them to work for us. It is quite another to say that the sum total of our civilization was “a handfuk of men making a lot of money pushing Negroes around.” Come now. At least be honest in your criticism.

  5. “A handful of men were making a lot of money pushing Negroes around”

    LOL! Hypocrisy much? If Yankees were so concerned about Southerners pushing Negroes around why did all those Northern ships bring the Negroes to the South?

  6. Your argument, Michael, is with Wigfall and others, not with me. It’s Wigfall who acknowledges the antebellum South was without a literature or invention. In a reply, above, to my comment, my fellow commenter Billy Ray, who is certainly your spiritual kinsman in this matter, not only accepts Wigfall’s statement as to the lack of a literature; he touts that lack, as a sign of the worth of the antebellum South.

    If not of literature, then of what did that worth consist? Sculpture? Painting? — Anything? In architecture, you have those Jeffersonian portico-and-pediment facades you rather fetishized. Anything else? I guess we could point to the Alabama State Capitol, where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated and whose beauty our host, Mr. Wallace, an Alabaman himself, recently remarked upon. I believe you’ll find that the construction–and maybe the design–of that was the work of a New Englander.

    Invention? Wigfall speaks with traditional scorn of the “mechanical [and] manufacturing classes,” including, I guess, the Connecticut classes that produced Eli Whitney, without whom Wigfall and his fellow self-satisfied Southerners would not have been able to “command wealth to purchase all we want from those nations with which we are in amity, and to lay up money besides.” It would be interesting to know, too, how much Northern invention went into the development of America’s energy sector, by which I mean the production of the Northern hay that, as your fellow Southerner Hinton Helper pointed out, was the true “king” crop of the antebellum U.S.

    At https://archive.org/details/asecondvisittou07lyelgoog is Volume 1, 1849, of Sir Charles Lyell’s “A Second Visit to the United States of North America.” On page 206 therein, you’ll find a passage I’ve posted before at Occidental Dissent. Lyell, whose importance in British and world history I won’t rehearse, is speaking of no less than the Confederacy’s future capital:

    “While at Richmond [Virginia], we saw some agreeable and refined society in the families of the judges of the Supreme Court and other lawyers; but there is little here of that activity of mind and feeling for literature and science which strikes one in the best circles in New England.”

    How unwisely must a people have conducted itself to have secured such fame.

    Up in the area of Boston, the cultural capital, as it were, of the “Yankees” that you and other Southerners of your views regard with reflexive contempt, is an institution that was founded just two days before the attack on Fort Sumter. That would be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose founder, William Barton Rogers, before his settling in Boston, had spent quite some time in professorship at the University of Virginia. The Western science of which that institution is virtually a world emblem is what enables you and me to have the present exchange. Fort Sumter, on the other hand, is a monument to a war that was fought for nothing.

  7. “LOL! Hypocrisy much? If Yankees were so concerned about Southerners pushing Negroes around why did all those Northern ships bring the Negroes to the South?”

    It’s amazing to me, Old Hickory, how often Southerners make that statement, which undermines, not fortifies, their position. Yes–if the emblems of those Northern shipping companies were being proudly displayed, as the Confederate flag is, on bumper stickers or in website banners (such as the banner of the present website), you might have a point. Certainly, I’m not displaying them.

  8. My sense, Billy Ray, is that you’re not making a serious argument …

    “Look at what problems cities have caused humanity.”

    That’s your position? Cities shouldn’t exist? Cities–including the ones that yielded the technology that is enabling you and me to communicate–shouldn’t exist? We should all be out huntin’ and fishin’–because of the “problems cities have caused humanity”?

    Before the Civil War, I take it, there shouldn’t have been cities. There shouldn’t even have been the Northern and British cities whose mills made Southern cotton valuable and whose inventors and factories, I imagine, were producing the farm equipment that made the growing of that cotton possible.

    “What did Dixie need with new authors when you had the writings of Shakespeare,Keats, Burns, Scott, and the philosophy of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero?”

    That’s your position? Southerners, having surveyed the cultural landscape and assessed the monuments that had been raised thereon by Shakespeare, Keats, Plato etc., realized that no more books needed to be written? I guess Keats, who died in 1821–which is to say, after the Missouri Compromise–just made it in under the wire.

    If the entire Southern population, Billy Ray, had truly wanted merely the life you mention–a life with “woods … full of game, creeks with fish, [and] furs to trade,” a life in which a “man who was good with a gun and a cane pole could always have meat, and a man who knew how to plant a garden and fruit trees ate well”–well, then, that would have been fine with me. If the North had attacked the South to put an end to such a life and make of the South’s territory an urban, industrial locale like the one the North was becoming, well, then, I, at least, might feel historical pity for the South–though no more pity than I feel for the American Indians whose life of that type the whites of both the North and South little hesitated to push aside. As it happens, that was not the life the Southern population was pursuing: Its leaders were forcing a hapless race to labor in agriculture that was intimately connected to Northern and world industry and that was, in a sense, little more than an adjunct thereof. In refusing to acknowledge that, they crowned their wrongheadedness with disingenuousness.

  9. John Bonaccorsi, Philadelphia, “extolling of the South sounds like the Old Testament’s delusional remarks”….

    Who are you to always come here with snide remarks about the South because of slavery over 150 years ago? I mean, there was a time when ONE IN TEN Pennsylvanians owned slaves. The punishment in for inter-racial marriage between a free black and a white in Philadelphia was immediate slavery for life. It’s was people like you, of your mindset who imported the slaves, “they’ll have a better life than they otherwise would in Africa”. Such a self-righteous humanitarian! In fact, people like you still import the modern slaves of today with that same exact self-righteous attitude, “immigrants will have a better life on minimum wage than they otherwise would have in Mexico”. Mr Bonaccorsi, laws and attitudes about particular customs may change over the centuries but the self-righteous attitude of the Yankee slave drivers like you never changes.

  10. You misunderstand me, Tex. My objection is not to the slavery that existed 150 years ago, as you say, and that was part of the North, too, even if only in the form of participation in the slave trade. My objection is to the continued extolling of it, even if only in the form of the brandishing of the Confederate flag.

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