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SCI LIBRARY

The Search for the Just Society


Edward J. Dodson



INSTRUCTOR'S MANUAL, LESSON 6


The key points of this lesson are brought out in a discussion of the history of the United States, from the creation of the Union under the Constitution, up thru the period of the War Between The States. An important point to stress is that the underlying principles involved are at work in every society, and the ways they come out are influenced by many of the externalities thus far discussed (e.g., population size and density, availability of resource-rich land, the stages of institutional, scientific and technological development).

FROM THE DECLARATION
TO THE CONSTITUTION

The Declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson, stated the higher principles by which the colonists justified their attempt to break from the British empire.

As discussed in the previous lesson, the Constitution was forged out of compromise between those who argued for principle and those who sought to preserve as much of their existing privileges as possible.

For those who, today, desire to secure and preserve a true state of liberty, the first step is to evaluate the U.S. Constitution and our body of positive (i.e., manmade) law to determine the degree of consistency with principles of justice. For, without justice there can be no liberty.

BENCHMARKS BY WHICH TO MEASURE
THE DEGREE OF JUSTICE IN ANY SOCIETY

Referring back to the first lesson and the discussion of the characteristics of a just society -- what are some of the benchmarks that can be relied on?

Widespread participation in the decision-making process (i.e., as much direct democracy as is practicable versus a high level of delegation to a few, even if elected, representatives).

Decentralization of decision-making, so that people have a high degree of control over what happens to their communities.

A general sense of security of person and property.

A general sense of equality of opportunity to secure an adequate quantity and quality of food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care and leisure (for civic involvement).

These are what political philosopher Mortimer Adler (in The Common Sense of Politics) refers to as the goods necessary for a decent human existence.

Although the principles by which a society is judged have consistency, the qualitative and quantitative measurements must be looked at based on the limitations of time and place.

One must ask what is the potential, given the technology of the age, to provide a given level of such goods.

FIRST PRINCIPLES

Does the U.S. Constitution meet Paine's first principle of justice; namely, do its provisions secure equal opportunity to access the earth (at least that portion of the earth coming under the geo-territorial control of the united States (i.e., the Union)?

Do its provisions protect this birthright of all individuals, equally?


Discuss why even Jefferson and those most desirous of creating an equalitarian society were not concerned that nature (meaning locations for constructing towns and cities as well as land the seas containing natural resources essential for human survival) would become monopolized as in the Old World.

At the end of the eighteenth century the economy of the united states was overwhelmingly agrarian.

Around 90% of all households lived on farmsteads they owned, although most were small and did not produce enough to be considered commercial (i.e., the value of crops sold was sufficient only to meet immediate consumption needs in manufactured goods).

Although Jefferson recognized the problems inherent in the concentration of landownership among a relatively small number of families along the eastern coast and tidewater areas, he looked at the frontier as providing a virtually limitless opportunity for individuals to acquire property in land and, hence, political rights tied to property ownership.

Jefferson was undoubtedly aware of the enormous irony in the fact that free land in the Western territories meant that only slave labor could maintain the planation system. Wages demanded by free European-Americans or African-Americans would be higher than Jefferson could profitably pay. Also, the draw of owning one's own land was far too strong for the most colonials.

THE BILL OF RIGHTS

The framers of the Constitution initially dismissed the need for a federal bill of rights on the grounds that each State remained sovereign; and, as citizens of the States, individual rights were established and guaranteed by the several states.

As they came close to completion, however, it became clear that adoption of the Constitution would not succeed without a commitment to inclusion of a bill of rights. Therefore, many of those who attended the convention agreed to support the Constitution only upon condition that a bill of rights would be added as soon as possible in the form of amendments.

Distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Discuss those clauses and amendments that relate directly to individual liberty.

FROM FRONTIER INDIVIDUALISM
TO ROBBER BARRON INDUSTRIAL-LANDLORDISM

Almost immediately after the end of the war with Britain, a two-stage migration began:

A new wave of immigrants from the British Isles and other parts of Europe began to arrive in large numbers, increasing the demand for land and housing on the Atlantic coast;

A movement westward into what was called the Northwest Territories (the eventual States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan) as well as Can-tuc-kee (Kentucky and Tennessee) began when Federally-controlled lands were opened for sale. Farmsteads had been given to veterans of the War for Independence in lieu of cash payment, and many sold their land to speculators who, in turn, set up land companies and sold land to settlers.

Because Spain controlled Florida and (until just prior to the Louisiana Purchase from France) most of the land west of the Mississippi River, there was far less immigration or migration into the southern states.

One result was a much stronger and longer-lasting attachment by residents of the southern states to their home state rather than the nation as a whole.

Immigrants to the north and migrants into the frontier adopted a more nationalist view of the Union. For one thing, they were more dependent on the national army for protection against the indigenous tribes.

The North's stronger ties to Europe's merchants and bankers also attracted investment in manufacturing, which in turn attracted greater immigration.

Prior to the 1850s, canals and then steam power turned the nation's waterways into highways of commerce and industry. The St. Lawrence and Great Lakes turned cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and New Orleans into major population centers.

The conversion of steam power from water to rails allowed direct access to distant markets by commerical scale agribusiness, mining companies, the lumber and cattle industries. The great expansion of this activity occurred after the end of the War Between The States.

The railroads and bankers formed the first real coalition of industrialists who sought and obtained monopolies from the state and federal governments. They received large land grants from the public domain as well as other subsidies and exemptions from taxation. As a result, the system of industrial-landlordism evolved that created great wealth for the few so-called robber barons while condemning millions of workers to oppressive working and living conditions.

POLITICS BETWEEN THE WARS

From the very moment of the adoption of the Constitution, the leadership elected to the State and Federal legislatures or appointed to positions of public authority were deeply divided over the question of centralized (Federalist) versus decentralized (Anti-Federalist) authority.

The Federalists generally adhered to the policies of a strong, central government with substantive powers over commerce within and between the States and between the States and foreign nationals. Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were leaders of the early Federalists.

The Anti-Federalists were led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They fought for a stricter interpretation of the Constitution where powers of the Federal government were concerned (at least until their own presidential terms). A second emphasis was on participatory and widespread democracy, with leaders rising out of the population on the basis of talent and ability rather than material wealth or family associations. In time, these ideas came to be called Jeffersonian.

A major political battle occurred over the creation of the first Bank of the U.S. because of the advantages this bank would have over state-chartered banks. Hamilton argued in favor of the bank.

In return for a commitment to act as the primary lender to the federal government, the bank was given a monopoly position as depository over government funds. Related to the bank issue was the constitutional problem that the government was not empowered to print paper currency, only to mint coinage to meet the definition of hard money.

After Jefferson's presidency, the conflict between regional interests intensified. The election of Andrew Jackson as president was an expression of sentiment against the Eastern estabishment; this was the first real populist movement against, in part, the growing power of the Federal government at the expense of the States. There were many issues involved (e.g., attempts to restrict wild cat banking on the frontier, slavery in new States, disposition of the lands of the indigenous tribes and the status of the tribes who remained east of the Mississippi.

The treatment of the indigenous tribes is reflected in the dispossession of the Cherokee from their lands in western Georgia. By the early decades of the nineteenth century, the Cherokee had adopted the European mode of settlement and agriculture, developed a written language and adopted a formal constitution. But they were in the way, and under Monroe many were resettled in the west (Oklahoma). The rest of the Cherokee took their case to the Federal courts and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the State of Georgia had no legal claim to the Cherokee nation's land. Andrew Jackson, now President, responded: "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."

The Cherokee were led on a forced march to Oklahoma; several thousand died, but they rebuilt their nation and were again a thriving nation until the War Between the States. They sided with the Confederacy and lost much of their land after the war.

The growing conflict between the industrialized North and the agrarian South raised the key question of states rights; namely, was the Union a voluntary association of sovereign States or a country divided into States for administrative purposes.

The southern states took the position that they had every right to secede from the Union. Once they voted to secede, they looked on the presence of Union troops as occupancy by a foreign army. Unfortunately, they did not attempt to negotiate (with compensation) the transfer of these facilities over to the Confederacy; had they done so and not resorted to armed conflict, the northern moderates (and States-rights advocates) might have allowed them to peacefully leave the Union.

The outbreak of War -- and the demand for unconditional surrender -- forcefully brought the southern states back into the Union. No state has since then has attempted to secede.

More subtlely, references to the Union were replaced by a nationalist language stressing the United States as a single entity -- no longer would anyone write of the united States in the plural are. From 1865 on, descriptions of the nation became The United States as a single entity.

THE ROBBER BARONS

The national agenda after the War was concentrated on settlement of the vast frontier and removal of the indigenous tribes.

The interests of railroad magnates, cattle barons, bankers and industrialists all combined to creat an atmosphere of considerable political corruption and a domestic form of mercantilism based on monopoly licenses.

During this era the political allegiances were slowly defined as Republican (the party of Lincoln) in the North and Democratic in the South and, eventually, in the largely immigrant unban centers.

INTRODUCTION

Lesson 1 * Lesson 2 * Lesson 3 * Lesson 4
Lesson 5 * Lesson 6 * Lesson 7 * Lesson 8