Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
Our vision is to reawaken the genuine American spirit of living in a good, great, and growing nation of free-born individuals.
Our mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
America the Beautiful, Part II
Barry MacDonald, Editorial
“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”
These lyrics were written by a poet, Katharine Lee Bates; and the music was composed by a church organist and choirmaster, Samuel Augustus Ward. The two never met. The poem was originally written in 1893, was revised in 1904, and revised again in 1913. The lyrics were sung to many tunes for a time until they were combined with Ward’s melody. Ward wrote his tune for the words of a 16th century hymn: “O Mother Dear, Jerusalem” in 1882.
The inspiration for the vision of “America the Beautiful” can be found at the Library of Congress. Katharine Bates writes:
“We strangers celebrated the close of the session by a merry expedition to the top of Pike’s Peak, making the ascent by the only method then available for people not vigorous enough to achieve the climb on foot nor adventurous enough for burro-riding. Prairie wagons, their tail-boards emblazoned with the traditional slogan, ‘Pike’s Peak or Bust,’ were pulled by horses up to the half-way house, where the horses were relieved by mules. We were hoping for half an hour on the summit, but two of our party became so faint in the rarified air that we were bundled into the wagons again and started on our downward plunge so speedily that our sojourn on the peak remains in memory hardly more than one ecstatic gaze. It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.”
The poet’s words are from a bygone era, when many American were proud of America, and when Americans were vigorous and confident. They were innocent of the corrosive and pervasive anti-American spirit that we are inundated with today. They could not have imagined the attacks on American initiative and enterprise coming from our universities and politicians. They would not recognize America in the various portrayals of dystopia that Hollywood dreams up, often projecting our nation after its collapse — the consequence of American aggression and nuclear warfare. And today the words “Make America Great Again” emblazoned on red baseball caps provoke some Americans — poisoned by propaganda — to violent reaction.
The vast landscape of America, encompassing prairies, salt flats, river valleys, everglades, deserts, mountains, costal inlets, beaches, and the cultivated fields of farming country, is not the flyover country. Americans of all political persuasions are in love with our extraordinarily varied and bountiful countryside. The environmental movement campaigning for clean water and pure air has indeed righteous motivations — it’s just a shame that socialistic radicals are hijacking our love of nature to assault America’s prosperity, as if a technologically sophisticated nation couldn’t also grow its economy and protect the environment at the same time.
Jigs Gardner writes two columns for The St. Croix Review under the headings “Writers for Conservatives,” and “Letters from a Conservative Farmer.” His “Letters” column is a memoir describing his transition away from his youthful and enthusiastic support for socialism towards conservatism. He was inspired with the ’60s “back to country,” hippy homesteader movement. He left his teaching position at college, and he and his wife, Jo Ann, rented a farm in Vermont. Instead of using modern mechanized equipment they decided to experience nature in the raw using only horsepower and brawn. They experienced the essential American frontier life: it is a grueling and lonely business to wrest a living from the wilderness. Jigs and Jo Ann Gardner were forced to summon the utmost of their intelligence and resolve to survive. The hardships of working the farm and of keeping the weeds at bay taught them an invaluable lesson — the steady accumulation of knowledge and technique shared among vigorous homesteaders opened the way to a more prosperous and, possibly, a more humane society.
After farming in Vermont the Gardners moved to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, where they found conditions vastly different and much more difficult. By this time they had outgrown the sentimental ignorance embodied by the hippy homesteader movement:
“In 1971 . . . we bought the last farm recognizable as a farm off a side road in the heart of the Backlands. Working early and late, reconstructing fences, felling trees for lumber, rebuilding the barn, planting gardens, haying, cutting firewood, it was at least a year before we realized what we were up against. We had not had to build barns to withstand one hundred miles per hour winds, nor had we plowed fields of sour cold clay where topsoil was no more than a dark smear at grass roots; we had not lived is such a wild place where owls, ravens, weasels, foxes, hawks, mink, eagles, and bobcats rioted and feasted on our flocks. We had been spoiled by Vermont; now we would be put through a far harder school.
“Growing in a marginal environment is wholly unlike farming and gardening elsewhere. Weeds, adapted to a low fertility regime, grow much faster than cultivars, which give much but require much. There is hardly any spring in Cape Breton; the cold clay soil barely warms until late June; it can’t be worked when wet and breaks hoes when it’s dry; it tenaciously shelters weed roots and drains very poorly. Pests and diseases find a happy home in marginal environments, fostering slugs and blights and cutworms, hornworm, earworms, and fungi in their thousands and tens of thousands. It took tons and tons of manure, lime, and eelgrass to rejuvenate the fields, but in 1976 our hay had the highest protein content of any tested in the Province.
“And without quite realizing it at first, we were turning an abandoned property into a beautiful farm. The gardens, grown for use — Jo Ann developed an herb business and we sold plants — as well as beauty, were photographed for national magazines, and thanks to the hard lessons she learned there, Jo Ann became a garden writer. But we failed to reverse the local fortunes: the few people here when we came left, and except for our place, the Backlands was empty. Insensibly, we became part of its history, the Last Stand.”
America beckons to the nations of the earth, as a light of liberty amidst a world history that is typified by a depressing chronicle of multifarious forms of tyranny. America has demonstrated how to create liberty and prosperity. Our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights serve as a shield protecting the American people from the arrogant and aggressive agents of a ruthlessly self-interested governing class. The governing class and their partners, the crony corporations, would subject the working and middle classes to crushing taxation and regulation if our Constitutional protections were ever overcome.
Our continuing prosperity depends upon the maintenance of our liberties as established by our Constitutional framework. The American dream appears as a vision of opportunity, enticing the vigorous and enterprising to create for themselves, through the virtue of their own labor, a home, a garden, a farm, a livelihood, a fellowship, a neighborhood, and a city out of wilderness.
American liberty preceded American prosperity. A broad-based and sustainable American prosperity will not long survive the subjection of American liberty.
American liberty is a fragile and precious experiment. American liberty is so fragile because its precious quality is not recognized and given the preeminence it deserves in our educational system. And politicians are constantly tempting the American people to relinquish their freedoms and opportunities in exchange for fraudulent promises and visions that are impossible to fulfill without eventually impoverishing the nation.
The St. Croix Review is dedicated to preserving and honoring the prerequisites of American liberty. Some of these prerequisites are included in the following:
The following is a summary of the April/May 2020 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “America the Beautiful, Part II,” writes that American liberty preceded American prosperity, and a Broad-based and sustainable American prosperity will not long survive the subjection of American liberty.
Mark Hendrickson, in “How Much Should Government ‘Help the Economy’?” makes distinctions between emergency aid, which the American people need in the wake of the coronavirus, and economic intervention to stave off an expected recession; in “After Afghanistan and Iraq, What?” he formulates three principles designed to prevent the United States from becoming mired in unwinnable overseas wars; in “Two Cheers for Capitalism?” he reviews a surprising article by David Brooks in The New York Times.
Paul Kengor, in “A Reagan Message to Bernie and AOC: Here’s Ronnie!” uses an appearance by Ronald Reagan on “The Johnny Carson Show” 45 years ago to contrast Reagan’s vision with the same-old-radicalism current in today’s Democratic party; in “Eerie Echoes of Influenza Epidemic,” he compares the devastating Spanish flu of 100 years ago with the coronavirus.
Allan Brownfeld, in “Socialism and Crony Capitalism: What Would the Founding Fathers Think?” determines that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump favor heavy-handed government management of the economy; in “Ignorance of History Dooms a Democratic Society to Bad Choices,” he writes that American schools are failing to transmit our precious American history and civics to the next generation; in “Remembering When American Politics Worked,” he makes the case for a return to a more civil, principled, and tolerant politics.
Earl H. Tilford, in “Afghan Imbroglio in Context,” lays out the negotiation and the process involved in ending America’s and NATO’s hostilities with the Taliban; he sees parallels between the winding down of the Afghan and Vietnam Wars.
David L. Cawthon, in “The Divine Right of Kings,” examines Thomas Hobbes’ political philosophy, postulating that in a “state of nature” every man is at war with every other man, and therefore men surrender their liberty to a sovereign in order to secure peace and security.
William Adair Bonner, in “Freedom of the Press in a World of Good and Evil,” reviews the establishment of the freedom of speech in America, and he traces its challenges and affirmation throughout American history, from the founding to the present. He examines the difficulty of discovering the truth, and he asserts that truth can only be understood through the practice of tolerance and faith in God.
Philip Vander Elst, in “Finding God in Tolkien’s Epic about ‘Middle Earth,’” comments on the Christian themes underlying J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy in the Silmarillion, the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Gary Scott Smith, in “The Character and Conviction of Washington and Lincoln,” reminds us of the noble qualities of our greatest presidents.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Cultural Ideology” reveals how out-of-touch with hard-working, courageous, and sincere Americans elitist Hollywood movie makers are.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer: How the Ivy League Self-Destructs,” relates yet another instance of an elite American university cancelling a course on Western civilization because the course wasn’t sufficiently attuned to identity politics and climate change, and he questions: Who is capable of recovering from such “life-draining decadence” and such “self-repudiation”?
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives, 3: Israel: Scott Nearing on ‘Living the Good Life,’” explains much of the impetus driving the Green New Deal: vanity and socialism.
Our vision is to reawaken the genuine American spirit of living in a good, great, and growing nation of free-born individuals.
Our mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
America the Beautiful
Editorial — Barry MacDonald
The authors of the St. Croix Review write for good-hearted Americans who are seeking a balanced perspective of America’s best qualities, alongside a clear-eyed presentation of America’s real challenges.
America has exemplary and humane institutions, and exceptional principles of law, and of governance. We cherish our freedoms of speech, belief, religion, association, commerce, contracts, and livelihoods. We uphold visions of fairness, of decency, of justice, and of law. We defend our right to face our accusers in open court; and we are willing to abide the decisions of juries of our peers. Our self-reliance and independence from the coercive force of government is supremely important to us.
We reject and repudiate the attempts of leftists to impose a sense of collective guilt upon us for the manner and character of America’s founding and settling. On the contrary, American history is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, discovery, achievement, excellence, and heroism. World history would lose much of its modern zest if America were excluded.
From the beginning America has been a uniquely multi-ethnic nation. Legal immigrants from everywhere on earth have been — and are being today — welcomed into America. And immigrants and their children are free to become genuine Americans.
The charity, generosity, and good will on the part of Americans towards the other peoples of the world are unsurpassed. If there is an earthquake, a hurricane, or a tsunami anywhere on the globe, Americans are in the forefront of the rescue. And the U.S. military has proven to be a stabilizing and protective force around the world.
Free speech is one of America’s foundational principles. There is a lust today to suppress, shame, and silence — and even criminalize — speech that does not comport with the aggressive left-wing orthodoxy that is ascendant at our universities and newsrooms, and in our increasingly-bureaucratic government.
Deceitful and hateful speech is best countered by its free expression — and then by its consequent cross-examination and refutation in the open air of public debate.
America remains a land of freedom and opportunity, and millions of Americans are able to rise to prosperity — depending on their determination and energy. And for those who are doing their best to succeed there will always be fellow Americans standing by, eager and willing to give them a hand up. *
The following is a summary of the February/March 2020 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “America the Beautiful,” describes the precious principles and institutions that make America a good, great, and prosperous nation.
In “The Inaugurating Editorial of The St. Croix Review,” Angus MacDonald explains why he founded Religion & Society, the educational foundation that publishes The St. Croix Review. This editorial was written in February 1968.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “For My Five Grandchildren: A Gift of Memory,” writes a memoir recalling his boyhood neighborhood full of immigrants, his education, his work as a Congressional aide, and turning points in American history; in “Questions and Answers for Lauren Lassabe,” he provides a more detailed autobiography; in “Reclaiming the American Political Philosophy,” he makes the case for limited government, free enterprise, balanced budgets, and respect for the Constitution.
Mark Hendrickson, in “AOC’s Ravings Against Billionaires,” reveals the tremendous wealth that billionaires infuse throughout the economy; in “Budget Deficit Capitulation: Our Spending Problem,” he points out that cutting taxes does have a simulative effect on the economy, and thereby government revenue from the lowered tax rates does rise — however, the federal government, year after year, spends drastically too much money and no one of either party seems to care; in “Cheating in Baseball: Past, Present, and Future,” he comments on recent scandals, reviews historical episodes, assesses the increasing influence of AI on the sport, and concludes that American fans insist on integrity; in “The Real Christmas,” he addresses the lingering questions of skeptics, and asserts the blessed message of Christ.
Paul Kengor, in “Remembering Jack Kerouac: Novelist, Beat, Conservative, Catholic,” presents a misunderstood and iconic American writer as he truly was.
Thomas Martin, in “Would an Admiral Make a Good Superintendent of a University? compares the current valuation of football, humanities, competence, character and compassion.
William Adair Bonner, in “Did the Culture War Ever End?” shows how America’s academic elites and institutions of law are redefining the terms of debate and are deepening our foundational conflicts.
Philip Vander Elst, in Christianity and Freedom: A Personal View,” writes that the underlying logic of Christianity is libertarian, and has played a pivotal role in the long struggle against torture, slavery, tyranny and inhumanity.
Earl H. Tilford, in “How Martin Luther King, Jr. Changed Hearts,” recounts the lasting impact King had in the ’60s on his family, and on his own father’s ministry; in “It Is for Professors to Teach and Students to Learn,” he cites his own struggles with botany and the terrorist attack on 9/11 to make a point.
Robert Ghelardi, in “How to Win the Culture War,” presents a critique of Adam Smith’s economics and a revision of economics and culture.
Michael S. Swisher, in “A Response to Robert Ghelardi,” proffers the “marginal product of labor” to Mr. Ghelardi’s arguments.
Al Shane, in “The Great Divide,” writes about America’s dangerous polarization exacerbated by the hatred of President Trump.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “‘High Noon,’” reviews the classic Western film, staring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Williams College — An Academic Disaster,” writes about the sad decline of his alma mater into the mire of identity politics.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives, 80: Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis,” reviews Daniel Gordis’ telling of the pivotal events of Israeli history.
Our vision is to reawaken the genuine American spirit of living in a good, great, and growing nation of free-born individuals.
Our mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
To the Readers of The St. Croix Review: I Have a Proposition for You
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
The team of the St. Croix Review, and the foundation that publishes it, Religion & Society, have been fortunate to be working with Robert E. Russell, of Robert Russell & Associates, for two years (2018-19). Robert has a long history of working with conservative causes, and he is an expert researcher.
We have been considering the different ways that we might expand our mission and our vision. We have been reviewing the span of The St. Croix Review’s fifty-two years of publication, and have been assessing our character and our strengths. As part of our efforts, Robert has made a careful study of our readership.
We have known that among our writers and readers there were a Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman; and a founding philosopher of the modern conservative movement, Russell Kirk; and a former Attorney General of the United States, Edwin Meese; and a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. From the beginning, Angus MacDonald, the founder of The St. Croix Review and Religion & Society, has had a magnetic quality, drawing people of consequence to him.
But what we didn’t know, and what Robert Russell has revealed, is the high quality of our readership. The readers of The St. Croix Review are among the most well-educated and supremely accomplished Americans. Our readers are intelligent, innovative, vigorous, and patriotic Americans. Many of you have been receiving The St. Croix Review for decades.
It turns out that our enduring publication has always been founded upon the excellence of our readers! I doubt whether any other publication has a readership equal to ours!
Among those who attended our 2019 annual meeting in October at the Lowell Inn in Stillwater, Minnesota, were two judges. There were also several military veterans who served as infantry and pilots in the Korean and Vietnam wars; one of them became an airline pilot, and discussed with me his experience of 9/11 — he was not flying that day but he shared his insider’s perspective. We had dinner with a state senator and a mayor. And there was a young man who, with his wife, founded, and is now managing a private school, educating children from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
Many of our subscribers are different types of medical doctors. One is an internationally respected specialist in heart and lung transplantations. There are many educators — from primary schools to universities. We have readers who are retired military officers up to the rank of generals. The clergy of many Christian denominations are subscribing. Our publication is included in the libraries of prominent universities and seminaries throughout America.
There is a retired captain of a U.S. Navy submarine. We have readers who were Eagle Scouts. We have presidents and vice presidents of corporations, who were also long-time civic leaders in their communities. We have a military veteran who established an educational foundation and an endowment fund. There is a former Green Beret who became a senior executive in several corporations. We have specialists in equity and venture capital funds. We have CEOs, and chairmen of boards of corporations, who are also generous benefactors of the arts and culture. We have a retired general manager of the New York Times. We had a Chairman of the Board of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Two of our writers and readers have worked in the White House as advisors to the President. One reader founded many companies, and was a Russian language interpreter. One Army veteran of 82nd Airborne Division wrote 18 books, and became a Lutheran pastor. Another veteran served in five European campaigns, including Normandy, where he was a commander with the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and where he earned the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars; he went on to found and chair a major manufacturing company in the defense industry. One of our readers was awarded the Navy Cross for actions in the Vietnam War; he served in the Marine Corps. We have distinguished lawyers (one who has been designated a “super lawyer”) and judges. One subscriber is in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, and he founded Parts Unlimited Distributing under his umbrella company, LeMans Corporation. A subscriber is currently serving as an ambassador in Europe.
I could go on and on listing the marvelous achievements and accolades of our subscribers. We have a seemingly endless list of distinguished and accomplished readers who are patriotic and good-hearted Americans. All of us together are making America a beautiful, idealistic, prosperous, and liberty-loving nation.
Our Religion & Society team would like to express our gratitude to all of you — our wonderful subscribers! And I have a proposition for you — the same proposition I made to those who attended our annual meeting last October.
Each of us has a story to tell about our experience of growing up and living in America. We each see America from a unique point of view. We are striving every day to preserve America as a nation of open-ended dreams and unlimited potential.
I invite you, our readers, to send us your memoirs and essays. Please tell us about your American life. Please inform us about your memories, discoveries, accomplishments, aspirations, and concerns. You have a wealth of experience and energy — please share it with us! Let us give all of our other readers something to ponder better than the toxic news narratives originating from New York City and Washington, D.C.! *
The following is a summary of the December/January 2019/2020 issue of The St. Croix Review:
Charles C. Burgess, in “Letters to the Editor” responds to Barry MacDonald’s editorial, “Ominous Events Leading to the Civil War,” providing a Southern point of view.
Thomas Drake, in “Letters to the Editor” throws cold water on the millennials and Democrats who are favoring socialism and Communism.
Barry MacDonald, in “To the Readers of The St. Croix Review: I Have a Proposition for You” invites the accomplished and distinguished readers of The St. Croix Review to send the editor their memoirs and essays centered around their memories, discovers, accomplishments, aspirations, and concerns of living the good life in America.
Rema MacDonald, in “The American Spirit,” tells the story of her husband, Angus MacDonald, who immigrated to America from Australia, and who founded The St. Croix Review fifty-two years ago.
Michael S. Swisher, in “Animadversions — Bugaboos of the Chattering Class — the Rule of Experts,” suggests that it might be good for Americans to pare back some of the influence that the technocrats have grasped for themselves over the years.
Paul Kengor, in “Dropping in on the Veteran Down the Street,” shares the story of John Russell Post who served in W.W. II and the Korean War; in “Thanking God at Thanksgiving: 100 Years Ago and Today,” he presents the Thanksgiving proclamations of presidents who spoke for Americans who suffered the nation’s wars; in “Taking Pride in Down Syndrome Children,” he laments the modern-day proclivity to abort the babies who otherwise would grow up to be among the warmest and happiest of people.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Minor Legislation with Massive Implications,” cites a proposal by conservative Senator Ron Johnson that he believes signals the end of spending restraint by both political parties; in “Who Stole Greta’s Childhood?” he responds to Greta Thunberg’s embittered speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit by agreeing with her that her childhood has been stolen from her — and he points out why she needn’t be frightened; in “Climate Change: Who Are the Ideologues?” he reveals the lust for power motivating elitist ideologues who harangue global populations about our supposed “sins” against the climate.
Earl H. Tilford, in “The Strategic Effect of Operation Kayla,” compares the operation that killed the terrorist leader of ISIS, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, with another groundbreaking raid into North Vietnam to free America POWs; in “When Collusion Twice Saved the World,” he shares first- and second-hand knowledge of when secret communications with the Soviets saved the world from nuclear war; in “Showdown with the Ayatollahs: A Dangerous Situation,” he highlights the tense and precarious situation that exists between the U.S. and Iran — and he praises the caution of President Trump; in “It Is for Professors to Teach and Students to Learn,” he cites his own struggles with botany and the terrorist attack on 9/11 to make a point.
Philip Vander Elst, in “Labour and the Gulag: The Labour Party’s Record of Support for Totalitarian Socialism,” reveals the history of lavish support — up to today — given by Britain’s Labour Party to Soviet Communism.
William Adair Bonner, in “Impeachment Politics in Education,” comments on the erosion of religious faith and the moral foundations in our society. He sees secular, humanistic, and partisan politics, unfettered from ethical restrains, corrupting American education, leading him to pose the question: are the student’s free speech rights being violated in the classroom?
Thomas Martin, in “The University Is Composed of a Soul and Body,” decries the neglected status of the liberal arts in American universities.
John P. Warren, in “One Nation Under God?” cites the decline of religious faith in America, especially among white Democrats, and he asserts the importance of a moral compass to the proper functioning of our republic.
Bruce Spangler, in “How Politics Drove Me to Find God,” describes the issues, the people, and the books that changed his life.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Fences,” reviews the performance of Denzell Washington in the movie “Fences,” which is about the experience of a black American garbage man. Francis DeStefano sees much in Denzell Washington’s portrayal that reminds he of his own father.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Socialism,” remembers his youthful dalliance with the Socialist Labor Party.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives, 79: Lincoln and His Generals,” reviews the conduct of the Union generals, and compares Ulysses S. Grant with Robert E. Lee.
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Our mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
Lessons from the Life of John Quincy Adams
Editorial — Barry MacDonald
Please read our “vision” and “mission” statements printed above the title. The vision statement is a shared ideal, I believe, between the writers and readers of The St. Croix Review — about building anew the sort of nation we want America to be. The mission statement presents the pillars that we believe must be perpetuated in order to bring about our vision for America.
The vision and mission statements are meant to be provocative. For example, we prompt the question: what is “the genuine American spirit”? We invite Americans who love America to express their opinions on what the genuine American character is or should be. We would like to invite the readers of The St. Croix Review to venture an essay exploring the topic. We have published essays written by our readers, and are eager to do so again.
Historically we are not, and have never been, a nation characterized by an attitude of quietude and submission before governmental authority. We disagree and argue fiercely among ourselves for the advancement of cherished beliefs. Americans are free people. We have an innate desire to see justice done. We want to live with an impersonal and impartial system of laws.
Unfortunately the Left in America is denigrating American history with the intention of undermining the worthiness of our Founding principles and our Constitution. This essay presents an inspiring look at American history, and at an under-appreciated American hero.
Washington, D.C. has become a vortex drawing to itself the nation’s wealth. Its politicians assume God-like authority to regulate and direct every aspect of our complex society. Our freedom of speech and our free exercise of religion are threatened. Not only the politicians but also the media “watch dogs,” educators, artists, and entertainers are all blind to how far from modesty and humility our government is. And too many voters are blind to the house-of-cards our nation has become. What is to be done?
We must hold on to our principles with courage and perseverance. There is no telling how long the battle for dominance will be, or of what events will intervene to change our course. We cannot avoid hard times. Not everyone can take direct action, but we must support those who do effect change. In American history there is no better example of courage and perseverance than John Quincy Adams.
John Quincy Adams was the son of our second President, John Adams. Like his father he had a wealth of experience. When he was ten years old he went with his father on his father’s diplomatic mission to France. For the next eight years he lived in Paris, the Netherlands, Russia, and England. John Quincy Adams became fluent in French and Dutch, and he was familiar with German and other European languages.
He in his turn was appointed minister to the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia. He persuaded Czar Alexander to let American ships trade in Russian ports. He led the U.S. peace commissioners in negotiating the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
As President James Monroe’s Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams wrote the Monroe Doctrine, warning European nations not to interfere in the affairs of the Americas. He negotiated fishing rights off the Canadian coast with England; established a part of the U.S. Canadian border; and negotiated the transfer of Florida from Spanish to U.S. sovereignty.
As our sixth president he promoted education and modernized the American economy. He paid off much of the national debt. But he neglected to build networks of support within Congress, so he was stymied by a Congress controlled by his opponents, and by members who were indifferent to him. He lost his re-election bid to Andrew Jackson in 1828.
Then he did something singular and extraordinary: He got elected to the House as a Representative from Massachusetts; and he served for seventeen years — nine consecutive terms, until his death in 1848.
He felt revulsion for slavery at a time when such sentiment was not ascendant among the powerful in Congress. He wrote:
“Slavery is a great and foul stain upon the North American Union, and it is a contemplation worthy of the most exalted soul whether its total abolition is or is not practicable.”
He spoke of “slave-drivers” and the “flagrant image of human inconsistency” of men who had “the Declaration of Independence on their lips and the merciless scourge of slavery in their hands.”
The following quote appears in John T. Morse’s biography, John Quincy Adams, published in 1882. It reflects a time unshackled by the conformity enforced by today’s political correctness:
“He was by nature a hard fighter, and by the circumstances of his course in Congress this quality was stimulated to such a degree that parliamentary history does not show his equal as a gladiator. His power of invective was extraordinary, and he was untiring and merciless in his use of it. . . . Men winced and cowered before his milder attacks, became sometimes dumb, sometimes furious with mad rage before his fiercer assaults. Such struggles evidently gave him pleasure, and there was scarce a back in Congress that did not at one time or another feel the score of his cutting lash; though it was the Southerners and the Northern allies of Southerners whom chiefly he singled out for torture. He was irritable and quick to wrath. . . . Of alliances he was careless, and friendships he had almost none. But in the creation of enmities he was terribly successful. . . . From the time when he fairly entered upon the long struggle against slavery, he enjoyed few peaceful days in the House. . . . When the air of the House was thick with crimination and abuse he seemed to suck in fresh vigor and spirit from the hate-laden atmosphere. When invective fell around him in showers, he screamed back his retaliation with untiring rapidity and marvelous dexterity of aim. No odds could appall him. With his back set firm against a solid moral principle, it was his joy to strike out at a multitude of foes. They lost their heads as well as their tempers, but in the extremest moments of excitement and anger Mr. Adams’s brain seemed to work with machine-like coolness and accuracy. With flushed face, streaming eyes, animated gesticulation, and cracking voice, he always retained perfect mastery of all his intellectual faculties. He thus became a terrible antagonist, whom all feared, yet fearing could not refrain from attacking, so bitterly and incessantly did he choose to exert his wonderful power of exasperation. Few men could throw an opponent into wild blind fury with such speed and certainty as he could; and he does not conceal the malicious gratification which such feats brought to him. A leader of such fighting capacity, so courageous, with such a magazine of experience and information, and with a character so irreproachable, could have won brilliant victories in public life at the head of even a small band of devoted followers. But Mr. Adams never had and apparently never wanted followers. Other prominent public men were brought not only into collision but into comparison with their contemporaries. But Mr. Adams’s individuality was so strong that he can be compared with no one.”
He was not fitted to cross the countryside rousing gatherings of people. There were writers and agitators who did raise the consciousness of the American people towards the injustice of slavery. There were wild abolitionists, such as John Brown, who took extreme measures and went to war with slavery.
By the way, slavery was an evil of ancient origin not exclusive to Western civilization, a fact not recognized by today’s anti-America critics.
But Adams had to walk a fine line in a House overwhelmingly controlled by his opponents. He said:
“The most insignificant error of conduct in me at this time would be my irredeemable ruin in this world; and both the ruling political parties are watching with intense anxiety for some overt act by me to set the whole pack of their hireling presses upon me.”
At any moment his opponents could combine to slander, disgrace, censure and expel him from Congress. He had to be careful not to give them the pretext. Through strength of will and a bold posture he intimidated a throng of antagonists.
Among fellow lawmakers he could count on the support of no one, but he did enjoy the steadfast enthusiasm of the voters in his district, and, as the years went by, he became the champion against slavery in Congress, and he gained many admirers nationwide. No one else had his prestige, experience, knowledge, ability, courage, and passion.
His method of attack was to present petitions from citizens for the abolition of slavery, and very often for the prohibition of the buying and selling of slaves within the District of Columbia. His stream of petitions forced the slavers to adopt a countermeasure which seemingly stymied Adams for years, yet the measure was unconstitutional and at odds with the conduct of a free government. In February 1836, the slavery interest in the House resolved that:
“1. That Congress had no power to interfere with slavery in any State;
2. That Congress ought not to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia;
3. That whereas the agitation of the subject was disquieting and objectionable, ‘all petitions, memorials, resolutions or papers, relating in any way or to any extent whatsoever to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid upon the table, and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon.’”
This was the infamous “gag rule” that forbade any discussion of slavery. It was a mistake made by the slave-holding party: they had assumed an untenable position. Adams became the persistent advocate of the “right of petition,” and thus he gained much more leverage with the public than he could have acquired on the issue of slavery by itself.
Year after year when the House established its rules at the beginning of a new term he would stand and say:
“I hold the resolution to be a violation of the Constitution, of the right of petition of my constituents, and of the people of the United States, and of my right to freedom of speech as a member of this House.”
And each time he was confronted with a chorus of “Order! Order!” and voted down.
The public recognized him as an heroic advocate; and a torrent of petitions descended on him, all having to be read, sorted, and presented. He presented thousands of petitions, dozens or hundreds at a time, each time encountering shouts of “Order! Order!”
Some of the petitions were sent by his opponents, praying that Mr. Adams be brought to the bar of the House, censured, and expelled — he read out these petitions, welcoming such a debate, but his opponents avoided the contest.
A great game of antagonism was played out. Some of the petitions were not what they purported to be. Once he hesitated to present a petition, saying he questioned its authenticity: it claimed to be from slaves.
Before he presented it he asked the Speaker for his opinion, whereupon a great clamor arose.
Much vituperation was directed at him. There were cries of “Expel him! Expel him!” There were exclamations that the petition should “be taken from the House and burned.” He was accused of a “gross and willful violation of the rules of the House and an insult to its members.” He was threatened with criminal proceedings before a grand jury so that the people might “see an incendiary brought to condign punishment.”
It was proclaimed:
“. . . he has committed an outrage on the feelings of the people of a large portion of this Union; a flagrant contempt on the dignity of this House, and, by extending to slaves a privilege only belonging to freemen, directly incites the slave population to insurrection; and that [he] be forthwith called to the bar of the House and be censured by the speaker.”
Unperturbed Adams waited for the hubbub to subside. When the occasion arose he pointed out he had not presented the petition. He said beforehand he doubted its authenticity, and he merely asked the Speaker for his opinion of its worthiness. And furthermore the petition of the slaves requested slavery not be abolished! He suspected that the petition had not been written by the slaves themselves but by their owner — thus the air went out of the balloon, the furor dissipated, and his opponents were brought to condign humiliation.
Eventually the tide of public opinion turned against the slavery interest and John Quincy Adam’s “invincible perseverance” was rewarded. At the beginning of each term the rules of the House were established, and year after year the majority favoring the gag rule dwindled. In 1842 the majority was four; in 1843, three. In 1844 the struggle lasted for weeks. On December 3 a vote abolishing the gag rule won by one hundred eight to eighty.
“Blessed, forever blessed, be the name of God!” Adams wrote in his diary. The gag rule had stood for eight years.
On February 21, 1848, at 1:30 p.m. the Speaker was conducting business in the House when he was interrupted by cries of “Stop! Stop! — Mr. Adams!” It was thought that John Quincy Adams rose to address the speaker, but he fell over unconscious. He was surrounded by his colleagues; carried to a sofa in the hall of the rotunda; and then to the Speaker’s room.
Late in the afternoon he was heard to say, “Thank the officers of the House.” Soon afterwards he said, “This is the last of earth! I am content!” He lingered until the evening of the 23rd when he died — in the capitol building where he had fought his bitterest battles.
Presently the Left is advancing the cause of a maternal government, massive and powerful, able to succor multitudes. The American people have been incrementally lured into ever deepening dependence by political promises that cannot be kept. Intellectuals, news people, artists, poets, novelists, actors, and entertainers — most are proponents of big government. To oppose them is to be maligned as a nationalist, a fascist, or a racist. The political and bureaucratic establishment of Washington, D.C. seems solid and permanent — just as the forces supporting slavery once seemed unshakable. But it is not so.
The deceitful practices of the media, and disregard for the rule of law and impartial justice on the part of political insiders are bringing America to a crisis. But the foolish and arrogant delusions of Left will not stand.
America is unique in its Founding, in its Constitution, Bill of Rights, and in its history. We need not fall into some ugly kind of dictatorship. We have the heritage of a free people. We have the experience and memories of freedom. A revival of respect for the Constitution is possible.
What we need is the ability, courage, and most of all, the perseverance of John Quincy Adams. He at times doubted whether slavery could be overthrown, and did not live to see its passing. But he fought for its abolition nevertheless. What we need are fearless advocates for liberty; for a free economy; for justice; for the Constitution; and for the free exercise of religion. *
Editor’s note: Since December of 2010 the covers of The St. Croix Review have been graced with the exceptional artwork of my daughter, Jocelyn MacDonald. Unfortunately, because she is striving to obtain a master’s degree in fine arts, she will no longer be able do the artwork for us. But we have been very lucky to call upon the artistic talent of a nationally acclaimed painter, William Ersland. His interests include horses, the Old West, equine sports, and the natural beauty of the wildlife and landscapes of America.
Thank you so much, Jocelyn, for the gorgeous inspiration you have given us for year after year! And welcome, William, to our community. We look forward to experiencing your visions of America!
The following is a summary of the October/November issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “Lessons from the Life of John Quincy Adams” presents the story of a genuine American hero.
Barry MacDonald, in “Friends of Our Friends Campaign,” announces a new program to expand the circulation of The St. Croix Review.
Michael S. Swisher, in “An Appeal for Support,” explains how donations are essential to the continuing operation of The St. Croix Review; and offers various methods of making donations.
Paul Kengor, in “Homage to a Cold War Prophet,” remembers the life and achievements of Herb Meyer, and he reveals some of Meyer’s CIA insider information, concerning the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II; in “What Lenin Said about Christians and Socialism,” he reveals the naïveté of “social justice” Christians who assume Democratic Socialism is compatible with religious faith; in “The Last of the Bailey Brothers of World War II,” with the passing of the longest-lived brother, Dick, he writes that the five Bailey brothers are gone, and “there will no longer be a car in the Mercer Memorial Day Parade with a Bailey boy wearing World War II badges.”
Mark Hendrickson, in “Brexit: What Is at Stake?” he assesses the dangers and the arguments of both sides in Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union; in “When Humans Don’t Procreate,” he considers why people are producing fewer children, and the consequences; in “The Persistence of Poverty: Another Perspective,” he cites the difficulty of measuring accurately wealth and poverty, believes that the real poverty rate in America is about 2 percent, and believes that Big Government seeks to manage poverty — rather than alleviate it; in “Is the Federal Reserve Apolitical?” he cites examples of the political rhetoric and actions of the Fed; in “The Art of the Budget Deal: White House and Congress Cooperate?” he sums up the political calculations President Trump may be making, and he blames run-away government spending on the appetite for debt and big-spending politicians among the American voters.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in “Jamestown, Virginia: Commemorating 400 Years of Representative Government,” writes that 400 years ago Jamestown was the freest spot in the Western world; in “Arbitrary Executive Power: Exactly What the Framers of the Constitution Hoped to Prevent,” he makes an passionate case for the Republican Party to resume its promotion of limited government; in “Despite Running a Brutal Regime, Saudi Arabia’s Influence Is Growing in Washington,” he questions the motives of the Trump Administration, and of Congress, in their continued support of the brutal Saudi regime.
Edwin J. Feulner, in “Reflections of an Early Trump Fan,” relates his experience of working with President Donald Trump, and he explains why he believes Trump’s policies are superior to those of previous administrations.
Earl H. Tilford, in “A Time of Civility Needed Again,” describes the public courtesy exchanged between President John F. Kennedy and Alabama Governor Wallace; and Tilford cites the rude conduct of Mayor Jacob Frey, on the occasion of President Trump’s visit to Minneapolis.
Burk Brownfeld, in “Innovating with Police Recruit Training: How I Used the Documentary “Charm City” to Teach Baltimore Police,” lays emphasis on empathy in the efforts to defuse potentially dangerous interactions between city residents and police.
Robert L. Wichterman, in “Take Away Religion and There Will Not Be Enough Police to Maintain Law and Order,” suggests that a return to faith would cure many of our societal problems.
George L. Batten Jr., in “Regression Toward the Mean,” revisits the results of the 2016 presidential election, and concludes that Donald Trump won because he seemed less radical than Hillary Clinton, and thus Mr. Batten ventures a prediction of the 2020 presidential election.
Judy S. Appel, in “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme,” writes about the health benefits and pleasure that come with growing herbs in her garden.
Robert Williams, in “Growing Up American,” imparts the essential lessons he learned from his “Grandaddy.”
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Considering a Conservative Magazine,” reviews the origins and character of paleoconservatism, and he reviews the magazine Chronicles, which is the present-day advocate of paleoconservatism.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives, 79: The Road to Appomattox by Bell Irvin Wiley,” he reviews a book that provides an “unvarnished picture of the South, one you will not forget.”
Our Mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
Ominous Events Leading to Civil War
My source for this essay is a biography from the American Statesmen series: American Statesmen: Charles Sumner, by Moorfield Storey. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900.
In 1853 the political landscape was discouraging for opponents of slavery. Both parties, Democrats and Whigs, decided that slavery could not even be discussed in Congress. The Democrats were pro-slavery, and they controlled both houses of Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary — they were thus able to make, execute, and interpret the law.
In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Bill replaced the Missouri Compromise. For three decades the Missouri Compromise had restricted slavery south and west of 36°30′, but no longer. Previously Congress regulated the territories, and Congress prescribed the conditions under which a territory might become a state. But thereafter the settlers themselves were given the power to determine their destiny, including whether to institute slavery in the territory or not.
Under the Missouri Compromise, slavery could not have entered Nebraska or Kansas, but now the settlers of the territories would take matters into their own hands. Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, slavery could be established anywhere but in the existing free states.
Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, one of the few anti-slavery senators, said in the Senate:
“. . . Slavery, which at the beginning was a sectional institution, with no foothold anywhere on the national territory, is now exalted as national, and all our broad domain is threatened by its blighting shadow. . . .”
After the Kansas-Nebraska bill passed the Senate on the way to becoming law, Sumner said:
“Ah, Sir, senators vainly expect peace. Not in this way can peace come. In passing such a bill as is now threatened, you scatter from this dark midnight hour no seeds of harmony and good will, but broadcast through the land dragon’s teeth, which . . . may not spring up in a direful crop of armed men, yet I am assured, sir, will fructify in civil strife and feud. . . .
“Sir, it is the best bill on which Congress ever acted, for it annuls all past compromises with slavery and makes any future compromises impossible. Thus it puts Freedom and Slavery face to face, and bids them grapple. Who can doubt the result? It opens wide the door of the future, when at last there will really be a North and the slave power will be broken. . . . Everywhere within the sphere of Congress the great Northern Hammer will descend to smite the wrong, and the irresistible cry will break forth, ‘No more Slave States!’”
According to the Indian commissioner in an official report, in November 1853, there were only three white men in the Nebraska territory. According to General Houston, by treaty with the Indians, whites were then excluded from the Kansas territory, and there was not a white person in the territory.
On May 24th, 1854, an event occurred that created new tension. Anthony Burns was seized as a fugitive slave in Boston and taken to the courthouse. Abolitionists gathered and attacked the courthouse, killing a guard but failing to free Burns. It was thought that Charles Sumner’s speech, quoted above, had inspired the abolitionists, and Sumner was warned to be watchful of his safety.
Between files of soldiers and a silent crowd, Anthony Burns was taken through the streets of Boston, and back to slavery. It was believed the spectacle made many new abolitionists.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was much resented in the North because it imposed the responsibility on local law enforcement officers everywhere to assist slave hunters in the task of capturing and returning escaped slaves. People who detested slavery were forced either to defy a federal law or to ignore their conscience.
A petition was introduced in the Senate for the repeal of Fugitive Slave Law in June 1854, and a debate was joined. Charles Sumner was asked by Senator Butler of South Carolina, in light of the law: “Will this honorable senator tell me that he will do it?”
Sumner replied, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing? . . . The senator asked me if I would help to reduce a fellow man to bondage. I answered him.”
“Then you would not obey the Constitution. Sir, standing here before this tribunal, where you swore to support it, you rise and tell me that you regard it the office of a dog to enforce it. You stand in my presence as a coequal senator, and tell me that it is a dog’s office to execute the Constitution of the United States.”
Because of his willingness to stand against the slave partisans Senator Sumner was seen as a leader in the anti-slavery movement and he received much abuse. Senator Clay of Alabama had this to say of Sumner:
“. . . a sneaking, sinuous, snake-like poltroon. . . . If we cannot restrain or prevent this eternal warfare upon the feelings and rights of Southern gentlemen, we may rob the serpent of his fangs, we can paralyze his influence, by placing him in that nadir of social degradation which he merits.”
In the North, Senator Sumner was respected as a man “that ain’t a-feared.”
The efforts to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law failed in the Congress, but there were changes in the offing. The Northern states acted. The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. Vermont and Massachusetts required a writ of habeas corpus, and trial by jury before a slave could be returned. Similar actions undertaken by the Northern states were intended to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law and were called “personal liberty bills.”
In 1854 the Whig party collapsed and was replaced with the Republican Party founded in opposition to slaveholders. The emergence of the Republican Party is a worthy story in itself, but it is enough now to note that from the beginning Republicans valued freedom.
In passing the Kansas-Nebraska bill the pro-slavery party counted on emigration from Missouri to populate the territory with pro-slavery voters, but they had aroused a spirit of resistance. Emigration Aid Societies were begun in Northern states and Northern immigrants came in greater numbers than expected. All the efforts of the slavery interest were put in jeopardy by a legal and energetic movement of settlers into Kansas.
In response, associations were formed in Missouri and other slave states to expel the Northerners. They asserted the right to bring slaves with them into Kansas. They would use force to make Kansas a slave state.
Andrew H. Reeder became the first governor of Kansas in October 1854. He was a pro-slavery Democrat from Pennsylvania. In November a delegate was elected to Congress; in March 1855, a territorial legislature was elected — in both elections — for the governor and legislature — armed residents from Missouri drove Kansas settlers away from the polls, and more than half the votes cast were illegal.
These facts were known and admitted by Governor Reeder himself, but nevertheless he certified the legality of the proceedings. Because Governor Reeder had certified the results, the president of the United States had an excuse for not acting.
The fraudulent legislature met in July 1855, to adopt for Kansas the complete body of laws then existing in Missouri — including the laws favoring slavery.
The “Free-Soilers” of Kansas met at Lawrence and resolved to send delegates to a convention for Kansas. The convention met in October at Topeka, prohibited slavery, and forbade the settlement of free colored people. The “Topeka constitution” was to be ratified by a vote of Kansans in December. A petition was sent to Congress for the admission of Kansas as a state — with the Topeka constitution.
Thus Congress was presented with the choice of accepting a state government for Kansas created either by Missourians or Kansans.
Events intervened before the ratification of the Topeka constitution. The rescue of a prisoner from a pro-slavery sheriff induced Governor Shannon, who had replaced Governor Reeder, to call for troops. A force of Missourians crossed the border and assumed the posture of Kansas militia. They encamped near Lawrence. War was imminent when Governor Shannon backed down, made a treaty with the Kansans, and ordered the Missourians to withdraw.
The Topeka constitution was then ratified, and the pro-slavery men did not vote. On the same day, U.S. Senator Atchison from Missouri, who was a leader of the pro-slavers, appealed to the South to send men and money to Kansas. He said:
“Twelve months will not elapse before war — civil war of the fiercest kind — will be upon us. We are arming and preparing for it.”
State elections were held in January 1856, under the Topeka constitution, and there was strife and bloodshed. Another invasion from Missouri was anticipated and the free state leaders telegraphed President Pierce for protection. The president sent a message to Congress in January, in which he blamed the Northern Emigrant Aid Societies for the struggle. While acknowledging that the behavior of the Missourians was “illegal and reprehensible,” he wrote that Governor Reeder’s certification of the first election (though half the votes were illegal) was binding, and he was therefore left powerless to interfere. He wrote that he would employ all the force at his disposal to put down any resistance to federal or territorial laws, and protect the people of Kansas; but he would do so only if the territorial authorities — those elected by fraud and violence, not those elected under the Topeka constitution — requested such assistance. He would respond to requests only from the slaveholders.
In March 1856, debate began in the U.S. Senate on what to do with Kansas. The majority reported a bill, read by Democrat Stephen A. Douglas that recognized the slave-holding government as legitimate. Senator Douglas followed the president in blaming the Emigrant Aid Societies. Senator Charles Sumner presented a rival bill that admitted Kansas under the Topeka constitution.
Senator Douglas engaged in bitter rhetoric calling Senator Trumbull a “traitor,” and stating that “black Republicans” wanted an amalgamation of the white and colored races.
In Kansas armed incursions from Missouri continued. An officer made a report that:
“There are probably five to seven hundred armed men on the pro-slavery side organized into companies. . . . For the last two or three days these men have been stationed between Lawrence and Lecompton, stopping and disarming all free state men, making some prisoners, and in many cases pressing the horses of free state settlers into service.
“On May 21, Lawrence was attacked, the presses and machinery of two newspapers were destroyed; the Free State Hotel and other dwellings burned; the stores looted.”
On May 19 Senator Sumner made a speech entitled “The Crime Against Kansas” in the Senate. He addressed Senator Butler, comparing him to Don Quixote:
“The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight: I mean the harlot Slavery. . . . The frenzy of Don Quixote in behalf of his wench Dulcinea del Toboso is all surpassed. . . . If the slave states cannot enjoy what, in mockery of the great fathers of the Republic, he misnames Equality under the Constitution — in other words, the full power in the national territories to compel fellow men to unpaid toil, to separate husband and wife, and to sell little children at the auction block — then, sir, the chivalric senator will conduct the State of South Carolina out of the Union! Heroic knight! Exalted senator! A second Moses come for a second exodus! . . .”
Senator Sumner addressed Senator Douglas:
“The senator dreams that he can subdue the North. He disclaims the open threat, but his conduct implies it. How little that senator knows himself of the strength of the cause which he persecutes! He is but mortal man; against him is immortal principle. With finite power he wrestles with the infinite, and he must fall. Against him are stronger battalions than any marshaled by mortal arm — the inborn, ineradicable, invincible sentiments of the human heart; against him is Nature with all her subtle forces; against him is God. Let him try to subdue these. . . .”
He returned to Senator Butler:
“Were the whole history of South Carolina blotted out of existence, from its very beginning down to the day of the last election of the Senator to his present seat on this floor, civilization might lose — I do not say how little, but surely less than it has already gained by the example of Kansas, in that valiant struggle against oppression, and in the development of a new science of emigration. . . . Ah, sir, I tell the senator that Kansas, welcomed as a free State, ‘a ministering angel shall be’ to the Republic when South Carolina, in the cloak of darkness which she hugs, ‘lies howling.’”
Many Senators condemned the Senator’s comments. Mason of Virginia said:
“I am constrained to hear here depravity, vice in its most odious form uncoiled in this presence, exhibiting its loathsome deformities in accusation and vilification against the quarter of the country from which I come; and I must listen to it because it is a necessity of my position, under a common government, to recognize as an equal politically one whom to see elsewhere is to shun and despise.”
To the vituperation of Senator Douglas, Sumner replied:
“. . . no person with the upright form of a man can be allowed, without violation of all decency, to switch out from his tongue the perpetual stench of offensive personality. Sir, that is not a proper weapon of debate, at least on this floor. The noisome, squat, and nameless animal to which I now refer is not the proper model for an American senator. Will the senator from Illinois take notice?”
On May 22 the Senate adjourned early. Sumner remained at his desk writing letters. Preston S. Brooks, a representative of South Carolina and the son of Senator Butler’s cousin approached Sumner and said:
“I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina and on Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.”
Then he struck Sumner with repeated blows on the head using a heavy gutta-percha cane. Sumner struggled to his feet, wrenching from the floor the desk that was bolted down. He stood briefly but fell unconscious under the continuing strokes until Brooks’ cane broke.
Senator Toombs of Georgia witnessed and approved the assault:
“They were very rapid, and as hard as he could hit. They were hard licks, and very effective.”
Brooks said of his actions in the House of Representatives:
“I went to work very deliberately, as I am charged — and this is admitted — and speculated somewhat as to whether I should employ a horsewhip or a cowhide; but knowing that the senator was my superior in strength, it occurred to me that he might wrest it from my hand, and then — for I never attempt anything I do not perform — I might have been compelled to do that which I would have regretted the balance of my natural life.”
Senator Sumner’s head was bruised and gashed. He lost a lot of blood. His thick hair may have saved his skull from fracturing. He regained consciousness and his head was sewed up. He was taken to his lodgings and expressed a desire to rejoin the debate as soon as he was able. Though the attack did not kill him, it left him debilitated for many years.
A committee was formed in the Senate to decide what to do about the assault. The committee was made up entirely of Sumner’s opponents. The conclusion was that the Senate could not arrest a member of the House, and could not try and punish him — the House would have to deal with the matter.
In the House a committee was appointed, made up of three Northern Republicans and two Southern Democrats. The majority recommended the expulsion of Brooks, and the minority claimed that the House had no jurisdiction over the assault “alleged to have been committed.”
Brooks was tried in the Circuit Court of the District and was fined three hundred dollars.
The resolution to expel Brooks did not gain the two-thirds votes necessary, but a resolution censuring him did pass. Brooks resigned from the House and returned to South Carolina on July 14. A vote was held and he was reelected to the House, receiving all but six votes cast from his fellow South Carolinians. On August 1 he again took the oath to uphold the Constitution as a member of the House.
In October his constituents gave him a public dinner, “in testimony of their complete endorsement of his congressional course.” Jefferson Davis, the secretary of war, wrote of his “high regard and esteem” for Brooks, and of his:
“. . . sympathy with the feeling which prompted the sons of Carolina to welcome the return of a brother who has been the subject of vilification, misrepresentation, and persecution because he resented a libelous assault upon the reputation of their mother.”
Students at the University of Virginia voted to send Brooks a cane with “a heavy gold head, which will be suitably inscribed, and also bear upon it a device of the human head badly cracked and broken.” The Richmond Enquirer wrote:
“In the main, the press of the South applauds the conduct of Mr. Brooks without condition or limitation. Our approbation, at least, is entire and unreserved; we consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in the consequence. . . . It was a proper act, done at the proper time and in the proper place.”
In the North the resolve to oppose slavery hardened. The brutal nature of the assault brought home the dehumanizing effects of slavery on both master and slave. The essential barbarism of slavery was made clear in an instant, and the nature of “Southern chivalry” exposed.
The retelling of American history is intended to show that partisan divisions have been worse than they are today. The legacy of slavery, including the Jim Crow laws, has been terrible. But the old south is gone, and resolute Americans played their parts in seeing it off.
“We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.” — Theodore Roosevelt *