Jefferson Davis: Is Government by Consent a Lost Cause?
June 1, 2022 | View PDF
The birthday of Jefferson Finis Davis is on June 3rd. Although it is a State Holiday in Alabama there will likely be little recognition from most circles. Davis, a Jeffersonian and a Christian (Episcopalian) who served as the only President of the Confederate States of America, certainly has many detractors in modern statist America, especially the Orwellian Thought Police (largely modern Bolsheviks) who typically despise Jeffersonians, Christians, and the Confederacy--Davis managed to accomplish the proverbial “hat trick.” Another strike against Davis is his uncompromising belief in voluntary, consensual government. Today’s tendency to blindly submit to the status quo would be antithetical to Davis’ philosophy.
Davis described what the South was fighting for ad nauseum—it was government by consent or what some call “The Lost Cause.” Davis opposed secession; however, once his State (Mississippi) decided to leave the union, he was duty-bound to follow. Possessing in-depth knowledge of American history, constitutional republicanism, federalism, and State sovereignty, Davis identified the nature and characteristics of legitimate government: “Governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.” This is the antithesis of the “Soviet-styled” belief that the federal government is essentially the overlord of the States—a common belief among collectivists who advocate top-down, centrally planned, “command and control” government. This centralized government philosophy is similar to what was advocated by Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists during the Constitutional Convention. Robert Yates recorded the proceedings of the convention and John Taylor of Caroline County, Virginia, expounded on Yates’ notes in his 1823 book, New Views of the Constitution of the United States. The “nationalists” did not get their way during the convention but Abraham Lincoln later implemented many parts of their agenda while working overtime to deny Southern Independence.
In 1846, Davis explained the only legitimate powers of the Federal government: “I answer, it is the creature of the States; as such it could have no inherent power, all it possesses was delegated by the States.” These delegated powers are found in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. All “undelegated” powers remain with the States (i.e., the people of the States). Davis was somewhat bewildered that Americans would question which government a State preferred to be associated with: “The withdrawal of a State from a league has no revolutionary or insurrectionary characteristic. The government of the State remains unchanged as to all internal affairs. It is only its external or confederate relations that are altered. To term this action of a Sovereign a ‘rebellion’ is a gross abuse of language.”
On August 2, 1864, while conversing with a Yankee spy named Edward Kirk, Davis explained, “We are not fighting for slavery; we are fighting for independence.” What would happen to a teacher who referenced this quote in a modern high school or college, i.e., a quote that does not fit the propaganda narrative? Would they be fired, reprimanded, or sent to some type of “re-education” class? Although it souds like something out of the satirical Babylon Bee, there is nothing too absurd for the “Woke Bolsheviks.”
Davis also noted the fallacy (insanity) of “might makes right” – the mantra of every tinhorn dictator throughout history when he said, “A question settled by violence, or in disregard of law, must remain unsettled forever.” However, he did offer some insight and a ray of hope for the future by observing, “The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.”
Despite the level of suffering, Davis insisted the effort to gain Southern Independence was worth it and he would follow the same course again. Davis contended the South was correct constitutionally and in principle: “Our cause was so just, so sacred, that had I known all that has come to pass, that had I known what was to be inflicted upon me, all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to endure, I would do it all over again.”
H.L. Mencken noted, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” As cynical as Mencken was, history indeed shows people take only so much abuse before they demand a change. Jefferson Davis had his faults like any man but he never backed down from his belief in voluntary and representative government. As we witness the collapse of America, one has to wonder when Davis’ prediction comes to fruition and the demand for representative government reasserts itself.
Sources: “Teaching American History,” at: https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/we-are-fighting-for-independence-not-slavery/; AZQuotes, at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/
3716-Jefferson_Davis; Union At All Costs: From Confederation to Consolidation, by John M. Taylor.