Government a Thing of Force, Not of Consent
George Fitzhugh was an editorial writer for The Richmond Examiner, 1855-1857, and De Bow’s Review, 1855-1867. His view of government at the time was prescient, and he saw the revolution at the antebellum North progressing through its various incarnations of “isms” to the detriment of the federated Union of States.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Government A Thing Of Force, Not Of Consent
(Chapter XXXV, excerpt)
“The very term, government, implies that it is carried on against the consent of the governed. Fathers do not derive their authority, as heads of families, from the consent of wife and children, nor do they govern their families by their consent. They never take the vote of the family as to the labors to be performed, the moneys to be expended, or as to anything else. Masters dare not take the vote of slaves as to their government. If they did, constant holiday, dissipation, and extravagance would be the result. Captains of ships are not appointed by the consent of the crew and never take their vote, even in doubling Cape Horn. If they did, the crew would generally vote to get drunk and the ship would never weather the cape. Not even in the most democratic countries are soldiers governed by their consent, nor is their vote taken on the eve of battle. They have some how lost (or never had) the “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and, whether Americans or Russians, are forced into battle without and often against their consent.
The ancient republics were governed by a small class of adult male citizens, who assumed and exercised the government without the consent of the governed. The South is governed just as those ancient republics were. In the county in which we live, there are 18,000 souls and only 1200 voters. But we 1200, the governors, never asked and never intend to ask the consent of the 16,800 whom we govern. Were we to do so, we should soon have an “organized anarchy.” The governments of Europe could not exist a week without the positive force of standing armies.
They are all governments of force, not of consent. Even in our North, the women, the children, and free Negroes, constitute four fifths of the population; and they are all governed without their consent. But they mean to correct this gross and glaring inequity at the North. They hold that all men, women, and Negroes, and smart children are equals and entitled to equal rights. The widows and free Negroes begin to vote in some of those States, and they will have to let all colors and sexes and ages vote soon, or give up the glorious principles of human equality and universal emancipation.
The experiment which they will make, we fear, is absurd in theory and the symptoms of approaching anarchy and agrarianism among them leave no doubt that its practical operation will be no better than its theory. Anti-rentism, “vote-myself-a-farm-ism,” and all the other Isms, are but the spattering drops that proceed a social deluge. Abolition ultimates in “Consent Government”; Consent Government in Anarchy, Free Love, Agrarianism, etc, etc, and “Self-elected Despotism” winds up the play. Immediate interest is all the masses look to; and they would be sure to revolutionize government as often as the majority was worse than that of the minority. Divide all property today, and a year hence the inequalities of property would provoke a re-division.
In the South, the interest of the governing class is eminently conservative, and the South is fast becoming the most conservative of nations. Already, at the North, government vibrates and oscillates between Radicalism and Conservatism; at present Radicalism or Black Republicanism is in the ascendant.”
(Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters, George Fitzhugh, A. Morris, 1857)