Southern History Series: George Fitzhugh on The Declaration of Independence and Virginia Bill of Rights

It is another Monday morning.

In light of events of the past month, I have my cup of coffee in hand and I am rereading George Fitzhugh’s book Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society who, shall we say, “predicted this.”

“An essay on the subject of slavery would be very imperfect, if it passed over without noticing these instruments. The abstract principles which they enunciate, we candidly admit, are wholly at war with slavery; we shall attempt to show that they are equally at war with all government, all subordination, all order.”

Liberalism is a solvent.

The principles of liberalism are absolutely incompatible with order, cohesion, continuity, stability, decency and normalcy. This is why mainstream conservatism is a failure. The philosophy of the mainstream Right is “conservative liberalism.” This project is like conserving cancer and being surprised when it metastasizes and spreads through the body and eventually kills the patient. Life under such an unsettled society becomes living in a perpetual state of social revolution.

“Men’s minds were heated and blinded when they were written, as well as by patriotic zeal, as by a false philosophy, which, beginning with Locke, in a refined materialism, had ripened on the Continent into open infidelity. In England, the doctrine of prescriptive government, of the divine right of kings, had met with signal overthrow, and in France there was faith in nothing, speculation about everything. The human mind became extremely presumptuous, and undertook to form governments on exact philosophical principles, just as men make clocks, watches or mills. They confounded the moral with the physical world, and this was not strange, because they had begun to doubt whether there was any other than a physical world. Society seemed to them a thing whose movement and action could be controlled with as much certainty as the motion of a spinning wheel, provided it was organized on proper principles.”

In the 18th century, liberals under the influence of Locke and Newton became captivated with the idea that human societies were like machines and operated according to “principles” like Newtonian physics. They sought to discover these “principles” and remake the world on the basis of them.

“It would have been less presumptuous in them to have attempted to have made a tree, for a tree is not half so complex as a society of human beings, each of whom is fearfully and wonderfully compounded of soul and body, and whose aggregate, society, is still more complex and difficult of comprehension than its individual members. Trees grow and man may lop, trim, train and cultivate them, and thus hasten their growth, and improve their size, beauty and fruitfulness. Laws, institutions, societies, and governments grow, and men may aid their growth, improve their strength and beauty, and lop off their deformities and excrescences, by punishing crime and rewarding virtue. When society has worked long enough, under the hand of God and Nature, man observing its operations, may discover its laws and constitution. The common law of England, were discoveries of this kind. Fortunately for us, we adopted, with little change, that common law and that constitution. Our institutions and our ancestry were English. Those institutions were the growth and accretion of many ages, not the work of legislating philosophers.”

Human societies are not like machines. On the contrary, they are like organisms. They are the work of God and Nature. They are born, grow through history, reproduce and expire. America’s origins were English and the United States was an offspring of England, NOT a highminded experiment in abstract liberal ideology. The people, our language, our culture, our religion, our laws and constitution were all peculiarly English in origin and remained so after the American Revolution. There is no such thing as “American exceptionalism.” America’s origins are no different than any other country in the world.

“The abstractions contained in the various instruments on which we professed, but professed falsely, to found our governments, did no harm, because, until abolition arose, they remained a dead letter. Now, and not till now, these abstractions have become matters of serious practical importance, and we propose to give some of them a candid but fearless examination.”

At the time of the American Revolution, the phrase “all men are created equal” was not considered to be of great importance, but later in the 19th century men like the historian George Bancroft began to argue that the meaning and purpose of America was a divine experiment in liberalism.

Here is an excerpt from no less of an authority than Robert Middlekauff’s The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789:

“What Americans thought and felt about the declaration’s “truths” which are presented as “self-evident” – that all men “are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights,” among them “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – is not clear. There was no immediate discussion in public of these claims; nor was there of the contention that all men were “created equal.” Thomas Jefferson wrote those words and though at the time, and since, no great originality was attributed to them and to the substance of the declaration, the declaration may in fact have possessed more originality than anyone suspected.”

The American Revolution was a struggle between monarchy and republicanism. The Americans were trying to establish a republic and liberal theories were invoked as ammunition to justify the rebellion and to attract support in Europe. In fact, John Locke’s work was almost entirely unknown in the American colonies until the 1770s. Liberalism would later become conflated with republicanism.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

It is, we believe, conceded on all hands, that men are not born physically, morally or intellectually equal – some are males, some females, some from birth, large, strong and healthy, others weak, small and sickly – some are naturally amiable, others prone to all kinds of wickedness – some brave, others timid.”

This is precisely what is denied now in our times because “liberty” and “equality” has been taken to absurd extremes. Nothing is conceded to nature. A man can become a woman as easily as by putting on a dress and lipstick and demanding to be addressed as mam and society is hopelessly bigoted for not immediately affirming the correct pronoun. Neil Gorsuch has discovered this in the Constitution.

“Their natural inequalities beget inequalities of rights. The weak in mind or body require guidance, support and protection; they must obey and work for those who protect and guide them – they have a natural right to guardians, committees, teachers or masters. Nature has made them slaves; all that law and government can do, is to regulate, modify and mitigate their slavery. In the absence of legally instituted slavery, their condition would be worse under that natural slavery of the weak to the strong, the foolish to the wise and cunning. The wise and virtuous, the brave, the strong in mind and body, are by nature born to command and protect, and law but follows nature in making them rulers, legislators, judges, captains, husbands, guardians, committees and masters.”

This is blasphemy against liberal ideology.

“All men are created equal” except that a moment’s worth of observation and reflection shows that this not true. Every society in the world including our own is unequal and in spite of our best efforts because there are natural differences between men. In a free society with a free market, the strong and intelligent will naturally outwit the weak who will find themselves subordinated to capital. Liberalism is a class ideology for the rich. It inevitably creates masters, but these masters are individualists who do understand themselves as such and feel no obligation, duty or responsibility to society or their subordinates.

“The naturally depraved class, those born prone to crime, are our brethren too; they are entitled to education, to religious instruction, to all the means and appliances proper to correct their evil propensities, and all their failings; they have a right to be sent to the penitentiary, – for there, if they do not reform, they cannot at least disturb society. Our feelings, and our consciences teach us, that nothing but necessary can justify taking human life.”

In our own times, conservative liberals boast about liberating criminals from prison and reforming the police. Certainly, it would never occur to them to mandate religious instruction for these people, as that would be an infringement of their liberty and inalienable rights.

“We are but stringing together truisms, which every body knows as well as ourselves, and yet if men are created unequal in all these respects, what truth or what meaning is there in the passage under consideration? Men are not created or born equal, and circumstances, and education, and association, tend to increase and aggravate inequalities among them, from generation to generation. Generally, the rich associate and intermarry with each other, the poor do the same; the ignorant rarely associate with or intermarry with the learned, and all society shuns contact with the criminal, even to the third and fourth generations.”

Not anymore.

As we approach the climax of the liberal utopia, the police are now instructed to kneel before criminals. In our culture, the criminal is celebrated as a victim of society and allowed to riot, loot, burn and destroy, and law-abiding citizens are persecuted by the law. The upper middle class now feels guilty about the inequality that pervades our society which is said to be the product of “systemic racism.” No other explanation for it can be maintained or admitted in mainstream society.

“Men are not “born entitled to equal rights!” It would be far nearer the truth to say, “that some were born with saddles on their backs, and others booted and spurred to ride them,” – and the riding does them good. They need the reins, the bit and the spur. No two men by nature are exactly equal or exactly alike. No institutions can prevent the few from acquiring rule and ascendancy over the many. Liberty and free competition invite and encourage the attempt of the strong to master the weak; and insure their success.”

Conservative liberals will tell you there are no natural differences between and within human groups for to admit otherwise would be to imply the competition that occurs between the strong and the weak and the intelligent and the dumb in the free market is not fair. Free society will never lead to racial equity or harmonious race relations. Neither will our current system of spending trillions of dollars on blacks to buy social peace and engaging in systemic racial discrimination against Whites.

“Life and liberty” are not “inalienable;” they have been sold in all countries, and in all ages, and must be sold so long as human nature lasts. It is an inexpedient and unwise, and often unmerciful restraint, on a man’s liberty of action, to deny him the right to sell himself when starving, and again to buy himself when fortune smiles. Most countries of antiquity, and some like China at the present day, allowed such sale and purchase. The great object of government is to restrict, control and punish man “in the pursuit of happiness.” All crimes are committed in its pursuit. Under the free or competitive system, most men’s happiness consists in destroying the happiness of other people. This, then, is no inalienable right.”

Strangely enough, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has led straight to disaffection on a massive scale. In our times, this is primarily because neoliberal capitalism creates profound inequalities of wealth, which inevitably leads to social instability. The virus is pushing the system of the edge.

“The author of the Declaration may have, and probably did mean, that all men were created with an equal title to property. Carry out such a doctrine, and it would subvert every government on earth.”

How on earth would our current system possibly survive when so many millions of people under the age of 45 own so little property?

“In practice, in all ages, and in all countries, men had sold their liberty either for short periods, for life, or hereditarily; that is, both their own liberty and that of their children after them. The laws of all countries have, in various forms and degrees, in all times recognized and regulated the right to alien or sell liberty. The soldiers and sailors of the revolution had aliened both liberty and life, the wives in all America had aliened their liberty, so had the apprentices and wards at the very moment this verbose, newborn, false and unmeaning preamble were written.”

As we never ceased to be reminded, the scope of liberty and equality was quite limited at the time of the American Founding. Now, this is the basis of charging that everything about the United States is illegitimate including Thomas Jefferson himself who wrote those words.

“Mr. Jefferson was an enthusiastic speculative philosopher; Franklin was wise, cunning and judicious; he made no object to the Declaration, as prepared by Mr. Jefferson, because, probably, he saw it would suit the occasion and supposed it would be harmless for the future. But even Franklin was too much of a physical philosopher, too utilitarian and material in his doctrines, to be relied on in matters of morals or government. We may fairly conclude, that liberty is alienable, that there is a natural right to alien it, first, because the laws and institutions of all countries have recognized and regulated its alienation; and secondly, because we cannot conceive of a civilized society, in which there were no wives, no wards, no apprentices, no sailors and no soldiers; and none of these could there be in a country that practically carried out the doctrine, that liberty is alienable.”

Jefferson and Franklin were men of their times and did not see the train of absurd and impractical deductions that would come from liberal principles. Fitzhugh did not anticipate “black trans” or gender non-conformity.

“The soldier who meets death at the cannon’s mouth, does so because he has aliened both life and liberty. Nay, more, he has aliened the pursuit of happiness, else he might desert on the eve of battle, and pursue happiness in some more promising quarter than the cannon’s mouth. If the pursuit of happiness be inalienable, men should not be punished for crime, for all crimes are notorious committed in the pursuit of happiness. If these abstractions have some hidden and cabalistic meaning, which none but the initiated can comprehend, then the Declaration should have been accompanied with a translation, and a commentary fit it for common use, – as it stands, it deserves the timid yet appropriate epithets which Major Lee somewhere applies to the writings of Mr. Jefferson, it is, “exuberantly false, and arborescently fallacious.”

It is only now in the year 2020 that our society has come to agree that the criminal should not be punished for torching Wendy’s or shooting police officers and should instead be at liberty to pursue happiness.

“Nothing can be found in all of history more unphilosophical, more presumptuous, more characteristic of the infidel philosophy of the 18th century, than the language that follows that of which we have been treating. How any observant man, however unread, should have come to the conclusion, that society and government were such plastic, man-created things, that starting on certain general principles, he might frame them successfully as he pleased, we are at a loss to conceive. But infidelity is blind and foolish, and infidelity prevailed.”

This is the understatement of centuries.

“Lay your foundations of government on what principles you please, organize its powers in what form you choose, and you cannot forsee the results.”

“You can only tell what laws, institutions and governments will effect, when you apply them to the same race or nation under the same circumstances in which they have already been tried.”

This is blasphemy.

“All men are created equal.” There are absolutely no differences at all between human beings. Their background is irrelevant because all human beings are interchangeable units. To say otherwise is “racism.”

“But philosophy then was in the chrysalis state. She has since deluged the world with blood, crime and pauperians. She has had full say, and has inflicted much misery, and done no good. The world is beginning to be satisfied, that it is much safer and better, to look to the past, to trust to experience, to follow nature, than to be guided by the ignis fatuus of a priori speculations of closer philosophers. If all men had been created equal, all would have been competitors, rivals and enemies. Subordination, difference of caste and classes, difference of sex, age and slavery beget peace and good will.”

Instead of looking to the wisdom of the past, experience and nature, our society looks to hysterical and hyper emotional Twitter mobs as well as mobs of ignorant vandals who tear down statutes of greater men.

About Hunter Wallace 9460 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

6 Comments

  1. “Our institutions and our ancestry were English. Those institutions were the growth and accretion of many ages, not the work of legislating philosophers.”

    Very very true, yet, unfortunately, if a populace is not behind it’s own ‘accretions’, then they go by the wayside, when some powerful entity, or person, comes along and cuts the ground out from underneath them.

  2. “It is easy to sentimentalise on the subject of “the American spirit”—what it is,
    may be, or should be. Exponents of various novel political and social theories are particularly given to this practice, nearly always concluding that “true Americanism” is nothing more or less than a national application of their respective individual doctrines.

    Slightly less superficial observers hit upon the abstract principle of “Liberty”
    as the keynote of Americanism, interpreting this justly esteemed principle as anything from Bolshevism to the right to drink 2.75 per cent. beer. “Opportunity” is another favourite byword, and one which is certainly not
    without real significance. The synonymousness of “America” and “opportunity” has been inculcated into many a young head of the present generation by Emerson via Montgomery’s “Leading Facts of American
    History”
    . But it is worthy of note that nearly all would-be definers of “Americanism” fail through their prejudiced unwillingness to trace the quality to its European source. They cannot bring themselves to see that abiogenesis is as rare in the realm of ideas as it is in the kingdom of organic life; and
    consequently waste their efforts in trying to treat America as if it were an isolated phenomenon without ancestry.

    “Americanism” is expanded Anglo-Saxonism. It is the spirit of England, transplanted to a soil of vast extent and diversity, and nourished for a time under pioneer conditions calculated to increase its democratic aspects without impairing its fundamental virtues. It is the spirit of truth, honour, justice, morality, moderation, individualism, conservative liberty, magnanimity, toleration, enterprise, industriousness, and progress—which is England—plus the element of equality and opportunity caused by pioneer settlement. It is the expression of the world’s highest race under the most favourable social, political, and geographical conditions. Those who endeavour to belittle the importance of our British ancestry, are invited to consider the other nations
    of this continent. All these are equally “American” in every particular, differing
    only in race-stock and heritage; yet of them all, none save British Canada will even bear comparison with us. We are great because we are a part of the great Anglo-Saxon cultural sphere; a section detached only after a century
    and a half of heavy colonisation and English rule, which gave to our land the ineradicable stamp of British civilisation.”

    H. P. Lovecraft

  3. The Declaration of Independence was not a legal document. It was a war document (propaganda) intended to convince the liberal establishment in other countries to help the Founders in their rebellion against the British Empire.

    When it came to putting what they wanted for the country into law, the White Founders dedicated the Constitution to Themselves and their Posterity, and no one else. Posterity means all of your descendents.

    Modern ‘Murricans are an intellectually lazy people, so none of them have read their own Constitution. They just imagine what feels good (what their television tells them is true), and that is their Constitution.

    Paycheck conservative were and are still paid to never mention the words ‘Ourselves and our Posterity.’ . You don’t get to be a paycheck conservative unless you are smart enough to know what you can and cannot say to please the donor class.

    So that is the story of how the greatest country in the world, became a third world brown anarchy in a couple of generations.

  4. I would argue that the concept of man endowed with equal rights by his Creator is in itself heretical because man is born not with rights but original sin that necessitates the appearance of a crucified messiah to atone for that sin. You may not believe that but lets not pretend the Enlightenment conception of God endowed human rights are somehow Biblical or based on the Bible.

    Likewise America exceptionalism is bunk but Western exceptionalism is not! People say American exceptionalism when they ought to say American traditionalism. America seem to believe it invented individual rights and limited goverment which must come as a surprise to Iceland, Switzerland, and Holland who had free societies long before the United States was conceived.

    Nevertheless, I must prefer the Declaration of Independence any day over the Constitution because it is the Constitution, not the DOI, which gave us integration, Gay marriage, abortion on demand, and interracial marriages and so on. At least the DOI enshrined the right of self-determination and secession whereas the Constitution is all about using the Supreme Court to enforce judicial degrees. Besides the Constitution was conceived in deception and secrecy because the convention was called to reform and strengthen the Articles of Confederation. Instead the Federalist gave us the odious Constitution.

  5. I’ve read Cannibals and was pleasantly impressed. He’s one of the better anti-liberal thinkers that the US has produced. I can’t think of anybody better at the moment. Sam Francis expanded on some of these ideas. There’s a little too much of Hayek in some of the passages above and I think that the continental anti-liberal tradition produced far more anti-liberal authors than the Anglo sphere. There are problems with the common law and Christianity.

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