American History Series: The Civil Rights Act of 1866

A few days ago, David French brought up the Reconstruction Amendments in an article called “Embracing Liberty in No Way Means Embracing Moral Relativism.”

“First, the protection of individual and associational freedoms — as defined by the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments — is not an act of moral relativism. It’s a powerful moral affirmation of the equal dignity and worth of citizens before the state. In other words, the protection of liberty isn’t mere relativism or proceduralism, it is — in fact — a fundamental facet of the “politics of the common good.” The disestablishment of religion is not a neutral act. The protection of free exercise is not a neutral act. The protection of due process is not a neutral act. The declaration that persons in the United States enjoy “equal protection of the laws” is not a neutral act.”

I found this to be an interesting passage because it struck a chord in the context of my current historical research. I’ve been reading Eric Foner’s new book The Second Founding and he makes a persuasive case that there was a constitutional revolution in the Reconstruction era that effectively created a Second Constitution. Before the War Between the States, American citizenship was derived from state citizenship, blacks had “no rights which the White man was bound to respect” under the Dred Scott decision, there were sharp distinctions between various categories of rights (natural, civil, political and social) and the idea of equality before the law was “not known at all.” The federal government had no power to enforce the liberal ideal of equal rights between American citizens within the states.

Yesterday, I responded to the Daniel E. Burns article in National Affairs in which he noted that historically speaking liberal practice has hardly always conformed to liberal theory in the United States:

“But liberal theory has spectacularly failed to live up to this promise. It is incapable of accounting for some of the most visible features of liberal practice. In many cases, it flatly contradicts them.

For example, federalism as Americans know it has no place in liberal theory. Liberal theory demands the strict sovereignty of the entire (unitary) populace. No one has ever shown how to reconcile this demand with a partially sovereign national union under a government of enumerated powers, where the remainder of sovereignty is reserved to 50 subordinate communities whose governments have no jurisdiction over one another. Today’s defenders of liberal theory tend to elide this difficulty by relying on a most embarrassing confusion of “limited government” with “government of enumerated powers.” Limited government is indeed a central feature of all liberal theory from Locke on (and in fact goes back to Hobbes). But a federal government of enumerated powers is an American innovation at odds with Locke’s whole view of government. Anyone who confuses the two implies that the federal government is our only government?—?a notion especially strange on the lips of American conservatives. …”

The Founding Fathers created a White Republic.

It was a federal republic of sovereign states. The federal government derived its power from the people of the states. Robert E. Lee was a citizen of Virginia and only by extension an American. There was no such thing as birthright citizenship. The Bill of Rights restricts the power of the federal government. The Tenth Amendment reserves all powers not granted to the federal government to the states.

In the original constitutional architecture of The First Founding, there was plenty of room for illiberalism. In fact, the entire social order of the South was based on plantation slavery. Slavery was established by state law and was preserved by the Constitution which provided for the capture and return of runaway slaves. There were once established state churches. There was no such thing as women’s suffrage. The rights of women were legally subsumed by their husbands under coverture. It was a crime in the South to circulate abolitionist literature. Slaves were forbidden to consume alcohol or to own firearms. The South was a White Man’s Country because only Whites were citizens of the Southern states.

Mainstream conservatives like to pretend that the liberal state was created by the Founding Fathers. It was really created during Reconstruction. It was only during this period when the defeated South was prostrate, occupied by the Union Army and unrepresented in Congress that Black Republicanism was ascendant and was able to redefine America to force liberalism on the unwilling states.

The following excerpt comes from Eric Foner’s The Second Founding: How The Civil War And Reconstruction Remade The Constitution:

“Without the South being held in what many Republicans called the “grasp of war,” the party would not have enjoyed the two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress necessary for the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. But the Republican party was divided into wings that did not always agree on the issues confronting the nation. Radicals, the most prominent of whom were Thaddeus Stevens, the party’s floor leader in the House, and Senator Charles Sumner, the politician closest to the black community, saw Reconstruction as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purge the republic of the legacy of slavery and guarantee that all Americans enjoyed the same rights and opportunities, secured by a powerful and beneficent national government.

For decades, those who would later become Radical Republicans had defended the unpopular causes of black suffrage and equal citizenship. Reconstruction, in their view, meant completing “the great anti-slavery revolution,” and laying to rest what Stevens called the “political blasphemy” that the United States was and should remain a “white man’s government.”

So, this was the point when the United States really went off the tracks. It went from being a Republic to an Empire under Abraham Lincoln. During the Reconstruction era, the Radical Republicans empowered the federal government to impose classical liberalism on the country through the Reconstruction Amendments, the various Force Acts and federal civil rights laws.

“Nevertheless, on January 31, 1866, the first version of the Fourteenth Amendment, dealing only with the question of representation, received the required two-thirds majority in the House. In the Senate, however, it encountered the formidable opposition of Charles Sumner. In a speech that lasted two full days and took up forty fine-print columns of the Congressional Globe, and in a second speech a few weeks later, Sumner attacked the proposal as a “compromise of human rights” because it recognized the authority of the states to limit the suffrage based on race – an unacceptable concession after “a terrible war waged against us in the name of states rights.”

Black Republicans like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens are responsible for creating the liberal order:

“The bill declared all persons born in the United States, other than “Indians not taxed” (considered members of their own tribal sovereignties, not the nation) and individuals “subject to a foreign power,” to be citizens of the United States. This for the first time put into national law the principle of birthright citizenship, which, in somewhat different wording, which would make its way into the Fourteenth Amendment. The Civil Rights Act, in other words, severed citizenship from race, as abolitionists had long demanded, and abrogated the Dred Scott decision. It applied, however, not only to blacks but to virtually everyone born in the country. It went on to enumerate for the first time all citizens “of every race and color” were to enjoy to “make and enforce” contracts, own property, testify in court, sue and be sued, and “enjoy the full and equal benefit” of laws “for the free labor, necessary to compete in the economic marketplace. No law or “custom,” the Act declared, could deprive the citizen of these basic entitlements, “except as a punishment for crime.”

Thaddeus Stevens demanded to be buried in an integrated cemetery as his final act of virtue signaling. He kept a black mistress as his housekeeper for years.

This is the inscription on his grave:

“I repose in this quiet and secluded spot,
Not from any natural preference for solitude
But, finding other Cemeteries limited as to Race
by Charter Rules,
I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death
The Principles which I advocated through a long life:
EQUALITY OF MAN BEFORE HIS CREATOR.”

Note: Since the whole liberal order is ultimately based on the 14th and 15th Amendments, one concrete proposal that would allow us to demolish that order in one stroke would be to repeal them. Both the Brown decision and Obergefell decision are the poisonous fruit of the 14th Amendment.

About Hunter Wallace 9453 Articles
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19 Comments

  1. This is a good article, but words mean something, and we therefore need to be very specific with our terms and terminology. e.g., the so called “federal government” is a national government, not a federal one. The federal principle so vital to the original Constitutional order was destroyed by Northern victory in the WBTS, the so called “Reconstruction Amendments,” Judicial Review and the “Incorporation Doctrine.” I’ve written about this a million times, seems like. But here let me cite Madison with respect to the distinction between a national government and a federal one.:

    The idea of a national government involves in it, not only an authority over the individual citizens, but an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things, so far as they are objects of lawful government. Among a people consolidated into one nation, this supremacy is completely vested in the national legislature. Among communities united for particular purposes, it is vested partly in the general and partly in the municipal legislatures. In the former case, all local authorities are subordinate to the supreme; and may be controlled, directed, or abolished by it at pleasure. In the latter, the local or municipal authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority, than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere. In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects. It is true that in controversies relating to the boundary between the two jurisdictions, the tribunal which is ultimately to decide, is to be established under the general government. But this does not change the principle of the case. The decision is to be impartially made, according to the rules of the Constitution; and all the usual and most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality. Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the sword and a dissolution of the compact; and that it ought to be established under the general rather than under the local governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be combated.

    -Federalist no. 39 (Madison)

    P.S. I despise Eric Foner, but at least he is finally being honest about overthrow of the original constitution via the vaunted “equal protection” and “due process” clauses of the 14th Amendment. Whereas right-liberals (or “conservative liberals” – whatever you want to call them) hold hard and fast to the historically illiterate nonsensical idea that our founding fathers envisioned the “more perfect union” we supposedly live in under 14th Amendment rule, but knew the People weren’t quite ready for that extensive a revolution at the time of the Founding and therefore gave us the bare bones of what they knew we would later perfect. Mainstream conservatives are retarded liberals, if you want to get down to the truth of the matter.

  2. Btw, Brad: also get your hands on a copy of Raoul Berger’s book, Government by Judiciary, The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment, if you can. I think it is out of print, but you can probably get your hands on a used copy.

  3. “The Second Founding and he makes a persuasive case that there was a constitutional revolution in the Reconstruction era that effectively created a Second Constitution.’

    Prior to the war, Northern SJWs and statesmen kept referring to an “”unwritten Constitution” much as they referred to a “higher morality.”

  4. “Black Republicans like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens are responsible for creating the liberal order:”

    Don’t seem all thar Jewish, do they?

  5. Thaddeus Stevens was a cuck and a traitor DEEP in apostasy:

    Thaddeus Stevens’ pro-Black “Freedman’s Bureau” created in March, 1865, ending in 1872, two years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment which gave suffrage to the Blacks. Once they had used American Blacks to alter the Constitution with its 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”) the Blacks were abandoned until the Second Reconstruction known as the Civil Rights Movement.

    Yes, it was this same traitor, Thaddeus Stevens, the Pennsylvania “keystone” of Radical Red Republican measures in Congress, who lived in obvious adultery for 15 years with Mulatto Roman Catholic Lydia Hamilton Smith, buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As do all Mulattoes, “Mrs. Smith” sided with Blacks against the Whites. And it is this same wicked, apostate Baptist Thaddeus Stevens—despising Protestant Democrat and Freemason, President James Buchanan—who was baptized into the Roman Catholic Institution on his deathbed in 1868—for a job well done in betraying WASPs!

    The Radical Red Republican-led Yankees conducted a war of annihilation against the White Protestant Southern people, stealing their tobacco, cotton and labor in slaves—as a matter of federal policy thanks to Thaddeus Stevens—while stealing every other valuable they can find via the Irish Roman Catholic drunken “bummers.”

    • Jem- You are correct. The Roman Catholic Bible contains the book of Tobit- inadvertently left out of most Protestant ‘bibles’ in the XIXth Century, and which is considered Scripture by the Vatican:

      “And all the days of thy life have God in thy mind: and take heed thou never consent to sin, nor transgress the commandments of the Lord our God.” [Tob. 4:6]

      “12 Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy father’s tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children, and their seed shall inherit the land.” [ Tob. 4:12]

      So, since the spawn of adulteration [known as Lydia Smith] is already ‘begotten in adulteration’, yet claimed to be a Roman Catholic, as did the White ManvThaddeus Stevens, even upon his deathbed, it would only be the Catholic thing to do, to disinter their accursed bodies, and scatter their ashes, and have a liturgy of malediction ex post facto, as they have disobeyed the Scriptures of the Catholic Church.

  6. “It was a federal republic of sovereign states. The federal government derived its power from the people of the states. Robert E. Lee was a citizen of Virginia and only by extension an American. There was no such thing as birthright citizenship. The Bill of Rights restricts the power of the federal government. The Tenth Amendment reserves all powers not granted to the federal government to the states.”

    Concepts seemingly incomprehensible to Leftists and Cuckservatives.

  7. God forgive me, but I used to strongly admire Stevens. He’s the dude in the picture above. Like all good liberals, I thought using power for good over the objections (and rights) of the evil people opposing us made us angels on earth. Lord, what destructive, condescending conceit that is. The left is always striving towards multicultural totalitarianism under the guise of democracy. They turn it into a majoritarian tyranny every single time, one way or another. If they can’t get the votes, they’ll take over the courts. Once they’re in prominent positions in any institution, they only hire their own.

    I had thought that the best answer to the leftist takeover of everything was to watch the gov’t self-destruct under its’ own ponderous weight, then build the individualist anarchist republic envisioned by Spooner. Cancel out the power of the majority and potential dictators forever. That won’t be allowed by power hungry leftists, or by the right collectivists (so-called conservatives) either. The only way out, imho, is to build an authoritarian, traditionalist society, with economic restrictions to maintain a balance of fairness. Overly unequal societies, economically speaking, also become fragile. In other words, the socially far-right, economically left-of-center system that threads the needle between individual rights and our responsibility to the community.

    HW has shown with his graphs that’s where Americans really are politically, but they haven’t been presented with any such option in the vile Uniparty. That’s reason enough to stay on this lonely path, and keep it open for people wanting to follow us from the dark, sad world we now have.

    • @Rich L.

      ” I thought using power for good over the objections (and rights) of the evil people opposing us made us angels on earth.”

      This belief is exactly, besides a few other things, at the heart of why Southrons don’t like Northerners.

      I could get into a long winded exposition/explanation about this subject. But that’s a talk for another time.

      • @James That is the attitude of lefties everywhere, not just up north. The tendency to say that such-and-such is a northern trait is an easy way out. Lefties from all over the world hold the belief that they hold the only morally defensible position, which makes their opponents evil by default. I’ve seen that attitude with Europeans and Africans on the left. Are they Yankees, too, or Marxists?

  8. Thaddeus Stevens. What a character. No one today even comes close to this radical Black Republican abolitionist’s hatred for the South.

    “Our object should be not only to end this terrible war now, but to prevent its recurrence. All must admit that slavery is the cause of it. Without slavery, we should this day be a united and happy people.”
    — Thaddeus Stevens, Congressman, Radical Republican leader, January 22, 1862, Palmer 248, from the Thaddeus Stevens Society website

    Without slavery for over 150 years now and we are still not a united and happy people. No, the problem was never really slavery (it would have naturally come to an end) it is all the radical nuts like you, Stevens, who sowed discord between the two regions of the country — two regions who should have never been in the same union of states together to start with.

    And by the way, there was a “victory” by the South during the early part of the Gettysburg campaign.

    Caledonia Furnace (owned by Thaddeus Stevens) Historical Marker:

    Despite orders not to, General Early burned the iron works to the ground, looted the company store, took provisions and appropriated all the corn and grain in the mills. The furnace was destroyed and never rebuilt. When asked in 1886 why he had burned the Caledonia works in spite of General Lee’s orders to the contrary, Early stated that the destruction was in retaliation for similar depredations by Union soldiers in the South, and for Stevens’ political speeches in Congress. “Mr. Stevens had exhibited a most vindictive spirit toward the people of the South, as he continued to do until the day of his death.”

    The marker reads:

    Erected in 1837 by Thaddeus Stevens and James D. Paxton. Stevens antislavery stand led to its destruction by Gen. Jubal Early, June 26, 1863, on his way to York during the early Gettysburg campaign.

  9. I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death
    The Principles which I advocated through a long life:
    EQUALITY OF MAN BEFORE HIS CREATOR.

    Seems like he was just being a good Christian, if you ask me.

    Remember: “…on earth as it is in heaven…”

    Now, I think it’s possible for a Christian to argue against equality on earth, but those arguments seem to ring awfully hollow to most Christians.

  10. I’ve always liked the cut of Jubal Early’s jib. There was a day in 1864 in the DC suburbs that… I wish I’d been there, on either side, just to see it.

  11. I have heard him say that he would prefer to see the [Blacks] free, but he believed that the Bible taught that slavery was sanctioned by the Creator himself, who maketh all men to differ, and instituted laws for the bond and free. He therefore accepted slavery, as it existed in the South, not as a thing desirable in itself, but as allowed by Providence for ends which it was not his business to determine.
    — Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s widow

  12. Note: Since the whole liberal order is ultimately based on the 14th and 15th Amendments, one concrete proposal that would allow us to demolish that order in one stroke would be to repeal them.

    I’ve said many times before that everything following the twelfth amendment is trash and ought to be repealed. I don’t, however, think a majority of Americans (or even Southerners, for that matter) would ever go along with calls to repeal the “sacred” fourteenth. A lot more people would be more inclined to get on board with a corrective amendment such as that I proposed in August, 2010. See here:

    https://dwebsters.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-conversation-with-senator-coburn.html

    Also, in connection with the broader article and Prof. Eric Foner’s subversive Jewish activities as an “historian,” “Constitutional scholar” and syndicated newspaper columnist, re: the Fourteenth Amendment as a whole, including in particular his (mis)interpretation and misrepresentation of the citizenship provisions comprising section 1 of the amendment, see my October, 2010 essay taking Foner and his ilk to task. Here:

    https://dwebsters.blogspot.com/2010/10/essay-concerning-citizenship-provisions.html

  13. One of the founding editors of National Review, Dr. Willmoore Kendall, noting the Warren Court’s reliance on the 14th amendment, urged that Southern Democrats and Republicans unite to repeal it. Despite having de facto control of Congress, they failed to even seriously consider doing so. It is as if all they wanted to do is to be seen by the voters as opposing the Supreme Court without actually doing anything effective to protect the people from the Federal bench. Thus we have moved from a republic to a Kritarchy, as Vdare terms our government. The American people cannot get any law passed and enforced against the interest of the managerial elite without being blocked by a Federal judge. The battle for self-governance in America was lost along time ago. The most effective thing we can do is leave the suicide pact that the United States has become.

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