|The Civil Rights Era Second Era of Reconstruction Faces South, Dec. 1957|
The following was published in the December 1957 issue of United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine, Pages 16, 20, 26. Errors in the original were only corrected where it was felt necessary for clarity and it was fairly clear what the error was.
Second Era of Reconstruction Faces South
By MILLARD F. CALDWELL Former Governor Of Florida
The present Era of Reconstruction is in many respects similar to the black period of the first Reconstruction.
The South is made the target of the same type of hypocritical, Yankee do-gooders and the same sort of narrow minded stupidity sits in the high places of Washington and indulges in the same specious arguments, motivated by the same political chicanery.
A striking point of similarity is found, when the Supreme Court of the first Reconstruction is compared with the Supreme Court of today. In both instances the Court, ignoring the Constitution, has indulged a highly imaginative flair for sociological fairy tales and has engaged, without restraint, in the writing of invalid judicial legislation.
Another interesting similarity is found in two men—President Grant of the first Reconstruction and President Eisenhower of this one. The intriguing parallel of their lives emphasizes once again the human proneness and predilection for the be-medaled military uniform.
Both Presidents, Grant and Eisenhower, came from the midwest. Both attended West Point. Both in their last years of military service were appointed to high office by their Presidents and both of them later repudiated their benefactors.
Neither of the two men, prior to election as President, had assumed any responsibility for the civic affairs of the Nation, neither knew enough of politics to have a Party preference and neither, with a single exception in each case, had ever cast a vote in any election.
Neither of the two men was a student and neither of them made any real effort to learn the facts of governmental life.
Both Generals Grant and Eisenhower, were as they became president, steeped in the Army caste system and both played with and into the hands of the rich and prominent people of the age.
Both men devoted much time to their hobbies—President Grant to his bottle and President Eisenhower to his golf—and both were habitually away from the White House when crises arose. But at least they followed precedent because we know that Nero was off with his hobby, the fiddle, when domestic catastrophe struck Rome.
Strangely, the outstanding event of President Grant’s Administration was the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and the most startling point of President Eisenhower’s service was the military occupation of Little Rock—events of like complexion.
Both Presidents, Grant and Eisenhower, evidenced sad weakness and indirection in International affairs and both of them watched America’s public morale disintegrate in a dangerous fashion.
The authorities, in writing about Grant, say that the evil of corruption in high places rose to alarming proportions and they assigned, as a reason, the fact that attention was so much absorbed by the South that little energy was left for curbing rascality in the North. I suspect that, when historians write of this day and time, they will use the exact language about President Eisenhower.
The point of departure between the two Presidents is found on the matter of inflation. President Grant’s ineptness had encouraged a strong wave of inflation in the country but, when Congress attempted to extend that trend, he vetoed the Act and took a definite stand in favor of economic stability. In President Eisenhower’s case, inflation is still running its course, with no apparent effort, save a few empty platitudes, to delay or stop the trend. Grant’s second term saw a rapidly increasing popular dissatisfaction—largely because of public reaction to the treatment of the South and the scandals in Washington. The culprits were so close to President Grant that the public found it difficult to avoid suspicion that he himself was implicated.
It is obvious that popular dissatisfaction is rapidly increasing now and for the same reason. The public is not pleased with the Supreme Court and the President. And, again, the culprits are to be found within the palace guard—Brownell, Adams et al.
Although these similarities are interesting it must be made clear that they are not too important.
The vital fact is that there is now loose in the land a determination to destroy the cornerstone of our liberties—a reckless intent to destroy the system of checks and balances between the several facets of government.
The authors of the Constitution, upon full deliberation, concluded that a definite balance of power is essential to the existence of a free government and they laid down a system of checks involving two fundamental principles: First, that those powers not granted by the States to the Federal Government be reserved in the States and, second, that the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the Government should be and remain completely separate and independent one from the other.
The subversive forces bent on obliterating these fundamental checks and balances have made startling inroads. The Supreme Court, contrary to law and the Constitution, has undertaken to methodically and rapidly reduce the States to mere empty shells.
That Court has not only encroach upon the fundamental powers reserved in the States, it has encroached upon the prerogative of the Congress and has written its own laws. Both the Supreme Court and the Chief Executive have violated the mandate to preserve the separation between the several branches of Government. The President has ignored the law and, by the, use of might, has attempted to make usurpation right.
The States have lost the Constitutional prerogative of self determination in those fields reserved to the States; they no longer have the power to preserve the peace within their own boundaries; they no longer have the power to say who can and who cannot practice law in the State Courts; they no longer have the power to protect themselves against Communists; they no longer have the power to control education in their borders and they can no longer control State elections.
The sad and alarming truth is that the Nation is now in the throes of Judicial Tyranny.
The basic difference between the first Reconstruction period of the 1800’s and Reconstruction of the 1950’s is the fact that the citizens of the last century were lean, hungry and alerted to the danger while the citizens of today: are fat, well fed and indifferent.
In the light of all that has happened I think it may be interesting to take a look at some beguiling double talk which has encouraged complacency. First, let’s listen to the address someone wrote for President Eisenhower’s delivery to the Governors’ Conference of last summer, in which he said:
“Here in Williamsburg, three centuries ago—in nearby Jamestown, a half century earlier—lived men and women who cradled this mighty Republic. Devout in faith, their spirit strong, their deeds heroic, they permanently shaped our destiny. As long as this Republic endures, their wisdom and example will mold and inspire our people.
“So in this historic place, as you and I contemplate our respective responsibilities of leadership, it is but fitting that we should soberly re-examine the changing governmental structure of this nation, here definitely conceived and partially designed so long ago.
“Such an examination is timely—even urgent. For I have felt as surely you have that too often we have seen tendencies develop that transgress our most cherished principles of government, and tend to undermine the structure so painstakingly built by those who preceded us.
“Of these principles I refer especially to one drawn from the colonists’ bitter struggle against tyranny and from man’s tragic experiences throughout the ages.
“That principle is this; those who would be and would stay free must stand eternal watch against excessive concentration of power in government.
“In faithful application of that principal, governmental power in our newborn nation was diffused—counterbalanced—checked, hedged about and restrained—to preclude even the possibility of its abuse. Ever since, that principle and those precautions have been, in our system, the anchor of freedom.
“Over the years, due in part to our decentralized system, we have come to recognize that most problems can be approached in many reasonable ways. Our Constitutional checks and balances, our forty-eight State governments, our multiplicity of county and municipal governing bodies, our emphasis upon individual initiative and community responsibility, encourage unlimited experimentation in the solving of America’s problems. Through this diversified approach, the effect of errors is restrained, calamitous mistakes are avoided, the general good is more surely determined, and the self-governing genius of our people is perpetually renewed.
“Being long accustomed to decentralized authority, we are all too include to accept it as a convenient, even ordinary, fact of life, to expect it as our right, and to presume that it will always endure. But in other lands over the centuries millions, helpless before concentrated power, have been born, have lived and have died in slavery, or have lost their lives and their liberty to despots.
“Today, against the dark background of Eastern Europe, we see spotlighted once again the results of extreme and dictatorial concentration of power.”
“There man’s rightful aspirations are cruelly repressed by a despotism more far-reaching than the world has ever before known. There power is free, the people in chains. By no means do I imply that the tragic plight of those once free people bears even faint relationship to the future of this nation. But by viewing that uneasy scene even briefly, we are forcibly reminded of two great truths. The first of these truths is that a nation cannot be enslaved by diffused power but only by strong centralized government. The second truth is that in spite of repression and ceaseless indoctrination, the determination of men and women to resist tyrannical control will not die; they will never accept supinely the lot of the enslaved.”
“In the Soviet machine, political power is exercised through unbridled force. All peoples of all areas where the Kremlin holds sway must instantly obey a Moscow decree, no matter how it violate their traditions, no matter how inapplicable it may be to local concerns.”
Is it possible the President did not realize how nearly we have approached the Kremlin doctrines: In America political power is exercised through the unbridled force of the Supreme Court and we are told our people must instantly obey the decree, no matter how it violates our traditions and no matter how inapplicable it may be to local concerns.
Then let’s listen to What Mr. Eisenhower had to say in 1956:
“I do know this: In a place of general disorder, the federal government is not allowed to go into any state unless called upon by the governor, who must show that the governor is unable with the means at his disposal to preserve order. I believe it is called a posse comitatus act—and I am now going back to my staff school of 1925 — of 1882, and that is the thing that keeps the federal government from just going around where he pleases to carry out police duties.”
What the President knew in 1956 he unlearned in 1957. We must agree that he should go back to his staff school of 1925.
On July 17 last, while the Civil Rights Bill was being debated, the President had this to say:
“I can’t imagine any set of circumstances that would ever induce me to send Federal troops into any area to enforce the orders of a Federal Court, because I believe that the common sense of America will never require it.
Now, there may be that kind of authority resting somewhere, but certainly I am not seeking additional authority of that kind, and I would never believe that it would be a wise thing to do in this country.”
Did Attorney General Brownell change the President’s opinion? Who was the culprit?
And I wonder if Attorney General Brownell remembers when in a Congressional Committee hearing last summer, he became thoroughly incensed because a Congressman suggested that the President might use Federal Troops to enforce integration in the schools? He said:
“No one has in mind any use of the militia in this situation, and I don’t think that there should be any implication that they do.**
“I think that you will find the general rule is that the governor of the state must request the president to call out the militia.”
And I wonder if you remember the words of sweet and reasonable moderation that President Eisenhower used about integration when he campaigned in the South and led so many of you up the garden path?
Just how are dictators born? What happened in Germany, Russia, Italy and in Argentina: Those Nations were destroyed by the Executive and Judicial usurpation of the fundamental rights of the people.
What’s happening in this country? Unless the people reclaim and protect their basic rights we will be cut to the same pattern.
I do not wish what I have said to be taken as partisan in nature. Although a Republican Administration is in power and must assume immediate responsibility for what has occurred we Democrats must assume our responsibility because both Presidents Roosevelt and Truman made major contributions. And the Democrats put such people as Messrs, Black, Douglas and Clark on the Bench. I am not sure Mr. Stevenson, had he been elected, would have better qualified to lead the Nation—I feel quite certain he could not have done worse.
John Jackson Kilpatrick, in the foreword of “Sovereign States”, used this language:
“Among the more melancholy aspects of the genteel world we live in is a slow decline in the enjoyment that men once found in the combat of ideas, free and unrestrained. * * * * With a few robust exceptions, our writers paint in pastels; our political scholars write a sort of ruffled-sleeve, harpsichord prose. We duel with soft pillows, or with buttoned foils; our ideas have lace on them; we are importuned to steer, with moderation down the middle of the road.
“These chamber music proprieties I acknowledge, simply to say, now that the essay which follows should not be misunderstood. May it please the court, this is not a work of history; it is a work of advocacy. The intention is not primarily to inform, but to exhort. The aim is not to be objective; it is to be partisan.
“I plead the cause of States’ rights.”
I adopt his words and plead his cause. I long for leadership in America that will not trifle with or compromise our basic rights. Our country is in grave danger and this is no time for the timid panty‑waist now is the time for greatness to assert itself.
Reference : Confederate Truths: Documents of the Confederate & Neo-Confederate Tradition from 1787 to the Present.