The history of the South and North in the United States is an interesting study of two societies, the former generally Rightist and the latter Leftist, growing and wrestling with one another under one government. The victor has been quite clearly the North, as today Massachusetts rules the world while the South stares extinction in the face. A close look at American history shows us that throughout the drama Southern leadership consistently underrated its adversarial neighbor, attempting futile compromises which the benefit of hindsight shows were simply negotiated surrenders. This presents us with valuable lessons on combating Leftism and how we may proceed to fight it into the future.
The first major mistake, after achieving independence from Great Britain, may also have been the greatest: agreeing to join the New England and Mid-Atlantic states in union under one federal government. By this time, the Southern and Northern colonies were highly distinct, with the Southern colonies sharing more culture with the British West Indies colonies than with New England or New York. Many factors contributed to the Southern colonies ratifying first the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution; factions such as the Federalists and Anti-Federalists and tensions between large and small colonies like Virginia and South Carolina created fissures which prevented the Southerners from presenting a unified front at the Conventions. Still, most were generally satisfied with the result: a relatively decentralized federal government with no explicit anti-slavery clause that seemed to allow room for the Southern and Northern ways of life to coexist and cooperate peacefully. Southerners had little inkling that the egalitarian nature of, and Puritan contribution to, the Northern worldview would soon plunge the two sections into conflict, with the South on the defensive. The South accepted compromise based on good faith and achieving pragmatic short-term goals. Eugene Genovese tells us:
Many [slaveholders] believed that only a strong and presumably friendly national government could provide security for their [slave] property. [Emphasis added]
Of course, a friendly national government depended on a friendly neighbor to the North. Tensions surrounding the dual interpretations of the Constitution began mounting soon after the turn of the century, as the Northern states pressured the Federal Government to curtail slave representation (Three Fifths Compromise), tax Southern exports (Nullification Crisis), restrict slavery from new states (Missouri Compromise, Wilmot Proviso, Kansas-Nebraska Act, etc.), and forego recapturing escaped slaves (Fugitive Slave Act). In each instance, the Southerners were forced to accept compromise at a loss, only to see those compromises backfire as the North used them as leverage for ever-expanding demands. The South did fairly well considering the restrictions of the Constitution, but ultimately failed by accepting one compromise after another, hoping against hope that each would put the matter to bed permanently, long after it became apparent that the two worldviews were irreconcilable. The antebellum South achieved not one lasting goal as a result of compromise. Leftism is a force which suffers no opposition for long; “give an inch, they’ll take a mile,” as they say.
In 1860-1 the South finally awoke and accomplished what should have been done decades earlier: secession. Even then, some believed that the slight would be taken in good faith by the North, and they would be allowed to leave peacefully to go about their way. Of course, they weren’t, the South was invaded, and the War was lost. The mistake of 1787 had come to call for its payment, and hundreds of thousands of Southern dead and maimed were duly offered.
The South had been broken materially, but not spiritually, and once again the battle was taken up, under the forced auspices of the Constitution. Radical Reconstruction attempted to destroy the Southern worldview once and for all; but this time the Southerners brooked no compromise, finally expelling the Carpetbaggers through force in 1877. The South reasserted itself as forcefully as was possible under the circumstances, and thus was rewarded with some measure of autonomy. Industrialism and egalitarianism were resisted and the Northern bloodlust seemed fulfilled, at least temporarily. But the dam had been broken, and the repairs could never restore it fully. In 1882 at Ole Miss, George Washington Cable felt comfortable issuing the following prophetic proclamation:
When the whole intellectual energy of the Southern states flew to the defense of that one institution which made us the South, we broke with human progress. We broke with the world’s thought. We have not entirely in all things joined hands with it again. When we have done so we shall know it by this—there will be no South. We shall be Virginians, Texans, Louisianans, Mississippians, and we shall at the same time and over and above all be Americans…. Let us hasten to be no longer a unique people.
Slowly the South came to believe the lies of modernity, as New South proponents like the above appeared and urged the South towards the utopian Yankee vision of the United States. Racial stratification lasted until the 1960s, but the roots of populism, as illustrated by the 1920s Klan revival, and progressivism, as illustrated by Southern support for the New Deal, dug in much earlier. The old antagonisms were forgotten as Southern youths were educated with Yankee schoolbooks and influenced by Yankee television and radio programs. Southern parents sent their sons to die for the once hated Uncle Sam. The evils of democracy and equality, despised as they were, came to be accepted as unavoidable facts of life, imposed on penalty of the bayonet. The second Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement, came and went, Southern leadership divided and powerless to rouse any sort of meaningful resistance to the Federal mandates.
Still, contemporary Southern conservatives and traditionalists resort to compromise, although now they are relegated to ultimately meaningless displays of symbols and token mentions of historical figures. Take South Carolina’s flying of the Confederate Flag over the Capitol; they compromised in 2000 to have it moved to a special monument on the State House grounds, where it is now under renewed attack. It will, no doubt, come down eventually.
Throughout its history, in nearly every single instance in which the South accepted a seemingly reasonable compromise, it only placated its enemies for a short time, after which the battle was rejoined with even more furor. In two major instances, on secession and Reconstruction, Southerners stood their ground and decided, “No more.” Unfortunately, the critical juncture, the war, was lost. Through their sacrifice, however, our Confederate ancestors gave us something, a vision for what we can be, a spirit that yet resides in all of us, deeply buried though it may be.
The moral is this: compromise with the forces of Leftism is worse than pointless, it is counterproductive, it is a negotiated surrender. Leftism does not have an achievable endstate, it is not reasonable, it is not logical, it does not operate on good faith. It gains sustenance by destroying Rightism, which it will do ad infinitum. I fear this lesson has been learned too late; the spirit of compromise, of reasonable disagreement, of believing the forces of Leftism and Progressivism to be motivated by good faith, has crushed and all-but eliminated the Southern worldview from the earth. When fighting Leftism, in any of its manifestations, there is only one course: to take a hard line stance on principle, on law and order, on God, and brook no compromise.