1776 and 1861

Brexit is more or less hardwired into the American outlook. But somehow we fought a war that cost close to 700,000 lives to preserve not a federation but a union, not a republic but a nation. That’s what makes America great (many suppose).

But H. L. Mencken thought otherwise. He saw that the Brexit of 1776 also implied the Secexit of 1861:

But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i. e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all. Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my aesthetic joy in it in amelioration of the sacrilege. H. L. Mencken, “Five Men at Random” 1922

Sacrilege? If you think the U.S. is holy. If it’s just one more liberal society, on the order of Canada or Switzerland, you might agree with Mencken.

3 thoughts on “1776 and 1861

  1. My father (a political liberal in the 1930’s through ’50’s sense) always said that Jefferson Davis was a great man, because, if he had succeeded, the country would be small enough to govern.


  2. The dems in the South had it all. They split off, had Britain and France as allies, and had the wealth to make a great nation. Instead, in typical neolib fashion, they stumbled in arrogance and forced a war by attacking federal property. Southern forts had been stocked by Buchanan, a pro-slavery dem (which is a given), because they wanted a war. It had been predicted almost since the War of 1812 that the slavers would make war against abolitionists. Instead of letting things go, waiting till the leases ran out, they forced one fort after another to stand down. Most commanders did. Buchanan put pro-slavery men in charge. One did not and in their stupidity, their greed for power, the dems made a fatal flaw. They attacked. thousands of bullets and rockets destroyed Sumner and managed to wound one man. No dead, just one wounded. A grandmother, her grandmother was from N. Carolina, said several times that it was seen as a sign from God that the dems were cursed. Since that time, none of her family voted for them, nor on my father’s side, which fought for the North. Thanks to dem greed, we were forced to bow to necessity from independent states to a Union. Yet, until the dems took over, states were still free. States’ rights were sacrosanct. Time and again, the dems show what they desired by that ugly war, to own and control all of us. To make us like Mexico is today, when Mexico once had a higher per capita income than America. Socialists did that. Now a woman Native Americans call Hilda-Beast is attempting to drive us into a new civil war. And she allowed in thousands of ‘friends’ to help her.


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