Becoming a Pale Copy of Our Elders
As the Southern States departed the old union to form a more perfect one, they took with them the old Constitution of the Founders—leaving the North to its own peculiar political revolution. As Prince Napoleon observed in 1861, the North behaved as a European monarchy would by calling its unhappy subjects “rebels,” and brutally suppressing Americans seeking political liberty, and government with the consent of the governed.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Becoming A Pale Copy of Our Elders:
“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the men of the Republican party—the party that led Lincoln to the presidency—because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end. The Confederates are to be treated as rebels—as if they were the subjects of a monarchy instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.
This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power, marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road—from which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn—filled with dangers, but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of the past—Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.
“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle, basis of our success and power—the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede, you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.
In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution, and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”
All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”
(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)