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Franklin Pierce, Political Protest, & the Dilemmas of Democracy ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce’s suspicions mirrored a rigidity inside the antebellum Democratic Get together in relation to slavery—how can we reconcile an advocacy of democratic decision-making with the existence of transcendent ethical values, the Structure with the Bible?

Franklin PierceOn the stump in New Boston, New Hampshire in early January 1852, Franklin Pierce gave an extended oration throughout which free-soil hecklers pressured him to deal with his concepts on slavery. “He was not in favor of it,” the Harmony Unbiased Democrat reported. “He had never seen a slave without being sick at heart. Slavery was contrary to the Constitution in some respects, and a blot upon the nation.” Pierce additionally scorned the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which trumped numerous state-level “personal liberty laws” that weakened the unique 1793 fugitive slave regulation. “[H]e said he did not like the law—he loathed it—it was opposed to humanity, and moral right.” Regardless of all this, the Structure was a compromise, and if it had not been for the slavery provisions it might not have been enacted in any respect. He might not like slavery or the fugitive slave legal guidelines, however the Structure acknowledged them, and the advantages of the Structure far out-weighed another problem or concern. Disliking slavery but fearful for nationwide survival outdoors the Structure—this was Pierce’s nice dilemma and it makes a helpful start line to reassess his concepts, and people of conservative Northern Democrats, on the limits of abolition and protest.[1]

Franklin Pierce had little interest in holding slaves, nor did he converse philosophically about slavery as a “positive good.” As early as 1838, he went on document saying slavery was “a social and political evil” that was additionally, prefer it or not, protected by the Structure.[2] As an alternative, he had a collection of sensible considerations over abolitionism. His opposition to abolitionism was not proof of “racial hypocrisy,” in Daniel Feller’s helpful formulation—the place antebellum politicians opposed slavery, but “constantly attuned their political position to practical considerations of context and consequence”—however one thing extra elementary: a suspicion of abolitionist civil disobedience and “agitation” as futile, harmful, pushed by philanthropic abstractions relatively than historical past and regulation, and anti-democratic. These suspicions mirrored a rigidity inside the antebellum Democratic Celebration in relation to slavery—how can we reconcile an advocacy of democratic decision-making with the existence of transcendent ethical values, the Structure with the Bible?[3]

For Pierce, abolitionist protest was futile as a result of it might spur an indignant Southern counter-reaction and invigorate pro-slavery forces, not weaken them. “Interference on the one hand to procure the abolition or prohibition or slave labor in the Territory has produced mischievous interference on the other for its maintenance or introduction,” Pierce defined in his January 1856 Kansas Proclamation. “One wrong begets another. Statements entirely unfounded, or grossly exaggerated, concerning events within the Territory are sedulously diffused through remote States to feed the flame of sectional animosity there, and the agitators there exert themselves indefatigably in return to encourage and stimulate strife within the Territory.” In his view, extra-political exercise spun out of management, each side dug in to withstand it, and violence resulted.[4] Civil disobedience solved no issues, however as an alternative led to a number of unintended penalties. It solely aggravated present tensions and created additional bitterness.

Pierce used comparable language in his biting December 1856 Fourth Annual Tackle: “Extremes beget extremes. Violent attack from the North finds its inevitable consequence in the growth of a spirit of angry defiance at the South.”[5] Northern Democrats typically utilized this understanding. Pierce’s successor James Buchanan stated nearly the similar factor describing the “gag rule” disaster of the 1830s and 1840s in his post-war memoir. “It is easy to imagine,” Buchanan wrote, “the effect of this agitation upon the proud, sensitive, and excitable people of the South. One extreme naturally begets another. Among the latter there sprung up a party as fanatical in advocating slavery as were the abolitionists of the North in denouncing it.”[6] Not solely did abolition fail to disturb slavery, it strengthened it and ignited a unclean frontier warfare in Kansas.

This futile plan of civil disobedience was additionally damaging; it threatened the Union that made American liberty, and the Structure which protected it, potential. Abolitionist agitation exhibited civic intolerance for the establishments and methods of life of different communities. This refusal to “cultivate a fraternal and affectionate spirit, language, and conduct in regard to other States and in relation to the varied interests, institutions, and habits of sentiment and opinion which may respectively characterize them,” corroded the glue of the Union, Pierce asserted; with out it the United States “could not long survive.”[7] Civil disobedience signaled disrespect for the decisions of fellow residents in different States, the inevitable outcome of which was violence, disunion, and warfare. Being such a big and numerous nation, variety of habits and concepts was inevitable. “[I]t was vain to expect the prevalence of the same sentiments or concurrence of the same opinions,” Pierce advised ex-president John Tyler and a welcoming committee at White Sulpher Springs, Virginia in 1855. “But this was true during the Revolution. Just as true at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, which embraced the then thirteen States as it is now.”[8] Why was it totally different now? Pierce warned in his 1855 Annual Handle: “If one State ceases to respect the rights of another and obtrusively intermeddles with its local interests; if a portion of the States assume to impose their institutions on the others or refuse to fulfill their obligations to them, we are no longer united, friendly States, but distracted, hostile ones, with little capacity left of common advantage, but abundant means of reciprocal injury and mischief.” Think about if the similar sort of “intermeddling” occurred amongst sovereign states, he continued. The outcome can be struggle. Such a horrible end result was delayed on this case as a result of abolition’s techniques have been “perpetuated under the cover of Union.”[9] In 1863, in the midst of the Conflict and reflecting again, he continued accountable “the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern states” for the battle, who by their intrusions performed into the arms of fire-eating, secessionist “discontents.”[10]

Had the sectional spirit prevailed in the 1770s and 1780s, there would have been no Union or Structure. Pierce declared in 1855:

An reverse spirit—one sectional and fanatical—would have stamped shame and defeat upon the ensign of the revolution. It might have paralyzed the energies, which, in that nice contest for the proper of self-government, impressed phrases of defiance, and gave blows of vigor when vigor was wanted. It might have made this superb Structure—beneath which we’ve lived collectively and grown collectively in peace, beneath the controlling affect of which we’ve loved for greater than sixty years such a level of development, prosperity, and happiness, individually and socially, as States and as a Confederacy, as the world has ever witnessed, and which solely mad fanaticism would recklessly destroy—an impossibility.[11]

Aware of the uniqueness of American democracy in the world, he claimed that the nice obligation of American politicians was “to preserve that which if once lost can never be recovered.”[12]

If the Structure failed and collapsed in a civil warfare, what would succeed it?—a banana republic of fixed revolutions and turmoil, a return to colonial standing in a overseas empire, or maybe a European-style autocracy? America would stop setting an instance to aspiring republicans in Europe and South America. “My hope and faith in the Constitution and in the permanence of the institutions which it upholds is strong, but with a knowledge of the weakness of poor human nature, and with the light of history cast upon our path, I certainly need not warn you that the loss of the great blessing which you now enjoy is not impossible,” he advised a New Hampshire viewers in October, 1856. Sounding extra like John Winthrop’s 1630 Mannequin of Christian Charity (“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us …”) than an antebellum politician, Pierce warned his fellow New Englanders, “Never allow your minds to be diverted from the fact that this is the great experiment in modern times, of man’s capacity for self-government, and that if the experiment cannot succeed under this Constitution and this union of the American States, its success on this continent under any new arrangement is hopeless.” Solely a renewed fealty to the Structure can save the Union and American liberty “from those calamities of civil war and of political anarchy or tyranny which destroyed the ancient Republics, and which now prevail in those of South America.” Slavery agitation and civil disobedience threatened these distinctive but fragile American liberties. As soon as gone, they could by no means return.[13]

As well as, if states have been denied admission to the Union as a result of of their stance on slavery, wouldn’t that “of necessity drive out the oppressed and aggrieved minority and place in presence of each other two irreconcilably hostile confederations?”[14] When he depicted a future of secession, the creation of rival sectional governments, and warfare, Pierce’s language darkened:

[For abolitionists] and the States of which they’re residents the solely path to its accomplishment is thru burning cities, and ravaged fields, and slaughtered populations, and all there’s most horrible in overseas difficult with civil and servile struggle; and that the first step in the try is the forcible disruption of a rustic embracing in its broad bosom a level of liberty and an quantity of particular person and public prosperity to which there isn’t any parallel in historical past; and substituting instead hostile governments, pushed directly and inevitably into mutual devastation and fratricidal carnage, reworking the now peaceable and felicitous brotherhood into an enormous everlasting camp of armed males like the rival monarchies of Europe and Asia.

The intention of American abolition and its extra-legal techniques was conflict, with People standing “face to face as enemies, rather than shoulder to shoulder as friends.”[15] He advised a Virginia viewers in 1855 that his “feelings revolted from the idea of a dissolution of the Union” and can be “the Iliad of our innumerable woes” if it occurred.[16] Very similar to Benjamin Franklin’s 1776 Philadelphia admonition that “we must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately,” Pierce warned that the Union preserved American liberties and disunion risked their disappearance. Antebellum males should additionally cling collectively, or “most assuredly” cling individually.

For Pierce, abolitionist agitation was pushed by philosophical and philanthropic abstractions divorced from sensible politics, compromise, expertise, customized, and customary sense. On this, Pierce sounded a Burkean observe. Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France instructed that eighteenth century Britons abjure metaphysics when contemplating authorities, its establishments, and its legal guidelines. As an alternative, assailing “theorists,” “sophisters,” “enthusiasts,” and “disturbers,” Burke wrote: “I cannot stand forward and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect.”[17] Pierce concurred, denouncing these “[a]rdently attracted to liberty in the abstract” with out sensible political issues.[18] On a go to to Philadelphia in July 1853, touring north to open the New York World’s Truthful, he denied the Founding Fathers have been theoreticians or philosophers in framing the Structure: “These men, Sir, of whom you have spoken, who planned here the institutions of a free government, let us remember, were no holiday patriots; they were no scheming philanthropists; they were no visionary statesmen.” They have been as an alternative sensible politicians, armed with the classes of historical past and expertise, looking for to carve out a distinct segment for constitutional authorities in a harmful world.[19] In 1855, he referred to as abolitionist theories “the modern isms, which were potent with evil, but powerless for good, which could distract and destroy but never construct or adorn.”[20] Their harmful potential was realized in John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. “We may all have regarded with too much indifference the swelling tide of reckless fanaticism, but we are not too late to breast it now,” he wrote optimistically in a public letter to an 1859 Boston Union Assembly. Brown’s Raid was the outcome of these new teachings “still vehemently persisted in, from which it sprung, with the inevitable necessity which evolves the effect from the cause.” Placing philanthropic theories aimed toward perfecting society above constitutional regulation and its orderly processes for compromise may good society, but in addition kill the Structure which made civil society attainable.[21]

The Struggle itself solely deepened his convictions on the nature of the Founders, declaring in July 1863: “No visionary enthusiasts were they, dreaming vainly of the impossible uniformity of some wild Utopia, of their own imaginations. No desperate reformers were they, madly bent upon schemes which, if consummated, could only result in general confusion, anarchy, and chaos. Oh, no! High-hearted, but sagacious and practical statesmen they were, who saw society as a living fact, not as a troubled vision.” The error lie with the “third generation” since the Founding, a blundering era of types, who foolishly changed the Founding Period’s practicality with “the passionate emotions of narrow and aggressive sectionalism.”[22] Pierce, of course, didn’t embrace himself as half of the third era’s indiscretions.

His shut good friend and fellow Democrat, the novelist Nathanial Hawthorne, aptly described the philanthropic tendency in lots of of his novels and tales, in phrases Pierce would have acknowledged. His 1843 brief story “The Birthmark,” for instance, speaks of an alchemist named Dr. Alymer, “a pale philosopher,” transfixed by his spouse’s birthmark, “the visible mark of earthly imperfection.” Eradicating it turns into an obsession, “the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind,” and he connives to take away it by having her swallow a potion. His spouse Georgiana notes that her husband’s “most splendid successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the ideal at which he aimed,” however acquiesces to his calls for. “Remove it, remove it, whatever the cost, or we shall both go mad!” she yells. She drinks the potion, the birthmark disappears, and she or he promptly dies. She is now good, but in addition lifeless.[23] Equally, Hawthorne’s 1852 novel Blithdale Romance speaks of the failures of a transcendentalist reform-minded commune outdoors of Boston, the place noble theoretical intentions descend into the human actuality of jealousy and rivalry. His Life of Franklin Pierce defined the confluence of their concepts nicely. Some checked out slavery via “the mistiness of a philanthropic theory,” which means abolition. Hawthorne and Pierce didn’t. They checked out it by means of the eyes of a statesman pledged to the Structure:

The theorist might take [the abolitionist] view in his closet; the philanthropist by career might attempt to behave upon it uncompromisingly, amid the tumult and warfare of his life. However the statesman of sensible sagacity—who loves his nation as it’s, and evolves good from issues as they exist, and who calls for to really feel his agency grasp upon a greater actuality earlier than he quits the one already gained—will possible be right here, with all the biggest statesmen of America, to face in the angle of a conservative. Such, in any respect occasions, can be the angle of Franklin Pierce… There isn’t any occasion, in all historical past, of the human will and mind having perfected any nice ethical reform by strategies which it tailored to that finish; however the progress of the world, at each step, leaves some evil or incorrect on the path behind it, which the wisest of mankind, of their very own set function, might by no means have discovered the solution to rectify.

Even in the warfare years, Hawthorne continued. In his unpopular 1862 Atlantic article, “Chiefly about War Matters,” the author lamented, “No human effort, on a grand scale, has ever yet resulted according to the purpose of its projectors…. We miss the good we sought, and do the good we cared little for.” Dr. Alymer killed his spouse to take away a birthmark; abolitionists might kill the nation to take away slavery.[24]

These considerations level to Pierce’s ultimate rivalry that abolitionist civil disobedience was finally anti-democratic and, to make use of the political theorist Willmoore Kendall’s apt time period, “constitutionally immoral.” Violence and civil disobedience reject the efforts of a democracy to control itself because it sees match, and a dissatisfied minority refuses to make use of proscribed legal-political channels or obey the selections of political establishments. Briefly, stated Pierce, abolitionist civil disobedience violates “the great doctrine of the inherent right of popular self-government.”[25] Democratic decision-making displays “the deliberative sense of the community,” defined Kendall, the place elected leaders deliberate over coverage, come to a conclusion, and maintain a vote.[26] If a majority backs a sure coverage, it turns into regulation and a minority obeys regardless of their opposition. Kendall continued:

They’re free, as people, free over in the social order, to plead the case for the beliefs that they maintain most strongly. Until they make solemn bores of themselves, we the individuals will take heed to them. They will attempt by way of the processes of persuasion to construct a consensus round their strongly held beliefs, however one advantage they need to domesticate is that of not being in an excessive amount of a rush, and one other is that of not anticipating different individuals, their neighbors, to surrender in a single day their very own strongly held beliefs.[27]

Democratic self-government can’t exist until the vanquished abide by the determination of the majority and patiently wait for his or her trigger to influence and achieve help. Activists should “cool their heels until a consensus, expressed either through the amending process or through the concurrence of the three branches, has swung behind, or at least into acquiescence with, what they were proposing.”[28]

If not, there isn’t any “peaceful transition of power” after elections and no continuity of legal guidelines and their enforcement, solely a brutal Hobbesian extra-legal battle between people and curiosity teams for energy. Kendall described this course of as a “derailment” of the American constitutional system, the place a minority refuse to abide by its guidelines, “being terribly sure that they are right and everybody else not only wrong, but wrong because of their wickedness and perversity. People who have suffered such a derailment, we understand at once, are not likely to enjoy waiting for a deliberate sense of the community, and are not likely to content themselves with any process of persuasion and conviction. They know they are right.”[29] Autocracy then replaces democracy, and society, in Pierce’s phrases, dissolves in “the yawning gulf of anarchy and destruction.”[30]

Therefore, Pierce repeatedly described two sides of the antebellum political debate: those that abided by and supported democratic decision-making and people who didn’t and opted for civil disobedience; those that took the Structure as a compromise and an entire, and people who broke it up into morally acceptable and unacceptable elements. The main theorist of antebellum civil disobedience was Pierce’s fellow New Englander Henry David Thoreau. In his 1846 On the Obligation of Civil Disobedience, Thoreau wrote:

Should the citizen ever for a second, or in the least diploma, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has each man a conscience then? I feel that we must be males first, and topics afterward. It isn’t fascinating to domesticate a respect for the regulation, a lot as for the proper. The solely obligation which I’ve a proper to imagine is to do at any time what I feel proper… All voting is a kind of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight ethical tinge to it, a enjoying with proper and incorrect, with ethical questions; and betting naturally accompanies it… A clever man won’t depart the proper to the mercy of probability, nor want it to prevail by way of the energy of the majority. There’s however little advantage in the motion of plenty of males.[31]

However for Democrats like Pierce, if conscience prevailed over democratic rule, and voting was merely a recreation of probability, we have been left with both an anarchy of particular person consciences every pursuing a imaginative and prescient of the good or a self-anointed theocracy run by philosopher-kings with superior consciences. Thoreau’s imaginative and prescient rendered constitutional democracy inconceivable. “If there are provisions in the Constitution of your country not consistent with your views of principle or expediency, remember that in the nature of things that instrument could only have had its origin in compromise,” Pierce defined to a New York Metropolis viewers in 1853. “[A]nd remember, too, that you will be faithless to honor and common honesty if you consent to enjoy the principles it confers, and seek to avoid, if any, the burdens it imposes. It cannot be accepted in parts; it is a whole or nothing, and as a whole, with all the right it secures, and the duties it requires, it is to be sacredly maintained.”[32] Particular person opinions on proper and fallacious legal guidelines or elements of the Structure have to be filtered by means of the deliberative democratic course of, the place they are going to be accepted by residents as constitutionally right regulation or rejected. There are not any different options. “It is no matter what our peculiar views may be, or what prejudices may take possession of our minds or hearts. If, as American citizens, we find ourselves constrained by a law higher or more imperative than this law, we then deny the obligations which the Constitution imposes, and can have no just claim to the protection and blessings which it confers.”[33] Selective obedience was not an choice and destroyed the very factor the Structure was written to guard.

Establishments like political events, assemblies, and constitutions filtered human passions and concepts and measured their value. This continuous, deliberative analysis of concepts prevented socially and legally damaging doctrines that appealed to particular person conscience and a “higher law” over the Structure, and acted as a examine on people prejudiced in favor of their very own knowledge quite than the wants of the wider group. Pierce and conservative Northern Democrats didn’t belief particular person consciences, interesting to non-public morality or Christian larger regulation, to make accountable selections for the entire group. This represented a type of sectarian intolerance and non secular intrusion into political decision-making. Though Pierce opposed spiritual discrimination towards the Shakers and Roman Catholics, and labored (with combined outcomes) as an lawyer and politician to proper this, he additionally strongly disapproved of faith interfering with politics. Writing to Buchanan in November 1856 after New Hampshire voted Republican, Pierce bitterly defined, “It is certainly no alleviation to know that the mastering power which overthrew our party there was a perverted and desiccated pulpit.”[34] He fumed to a pal in February 1860, “The cant, heresy, and treason fulminated from many of our New England Pulpits Sunday after Sunday on the approach of every general election is really appalling. We are all more or less responsible for the continuance of such treasonable and dangerous teachings—We have given too much countenance to such teachings by our silent presence.”[35] Pierce joined the Episcopal Church in 1865 partially as a result of it “stubbornly and consistently avoided secular and political matters in its preaching,” and the minister of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Harmony, New Hampshire by no means sermonized on present occasions.[36]

Pierce additionally believed that rule by conscience fairly than Structure destroyed political establishments and regulation. There was nothing civil about civil disobedience or selective obedience of the Structure. Democratic authorities was unattainable if, upon the calls of conscience to disobey, residents cherry-picked legal guidelines amenable to their very own concepts of justice and morality. “Let no man delude you with the ideas that our Union has any intrinsic strength independent of the devotion of the people to constitutional right. It is just as strong as that devotion, and with the observance or disregard of constitutional right it will stand or fall,” Pierce advised a New Hampshire viewers in 1856.[37] He continued the theme in two 1859 public letters: “Shall the fundamental law of the land be obeyed, not with evasive reluctance, but in good fidelity?” “Between political communities, as between individuals, there can be no fraternity without justice. But what does justice enjoin? Clearly, that, if we will enjoy the benefits which the Constitution confers, we must fulfill the obligations it imposes.”[38] The theme was widespread amongst antebellum Democrats. President Buchanan concurred: “Should a general spirit against [law] enforcement prevail, this will prove fatal to us as a nation. We acknowledge no master but the law; and should we cut loose from its restraints, and every one do what seemeth good in his own eyes, our case will indeed be hopeless.”[39] The Catholic journalist Orestes Brownson, a New England Democratic modern of Pierce, steered rule by conscience and better regulation revolted towards professional authority: “To appeal from the government to private judgment is to place private judgment above public authority, the individual above the state, which as we have seen, is incompatible with the very existence of government, and therefore, since government is a divine ordinance, absolutely forbidden by the law of God.”[40] Though Brownson went additional than Pierce, who would have been uneasy with Brownson’s spiritual justification, it additional illustrates Northern Democratic anxieties over mixing the rule of regulation with selective obedience.

We might not approve of some legal guidelines or how different states conduct their public enterprise, declared Pierce, however workable constitutional democracy calls for that we respect their capability to control themselves. Texas had “social institutions which her people chose for themselves” and the “new territories were organized without restrictions on the disputed point [of slavery], and were thus left to judge in that particular for themselves.”[41] Those that opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,

have by no means ceased, from the time of the enactment of the restrictive provision [that Congress shall make no law regarding slavery in the territories] to the current day, to denounce and condemn it; who’ve continuously refused to finish it by needful supplementary laws; who’ve spared no exertion to deprive it of ethical drive, who’ve themselves many times tried its repeal by the enactment of incompatible provisions, and who, by the inevitable reactionary impact of their very own violence upon the topic, woke up the nation to notion of the true constitutional precept of leaving the matter concerned to the discretion of the individuals of the respective present or incipient States.[42]

To say democratic decision-making typically made errors or legislated dangerous and even pernicious legal guidelines was solely beside the level—to outline democracy this manner was to point that it was outlined by its ends not means. “It is not pretended that this principle or any other precludes the possibility of evils in practice, disturbed, as political action is liable to be, by human passions. No form of government is exempt from inconveniences,” Pierce wrote in 1855. The deteriorating state of affairs in Kansas was not the end result of well-liked sovereignty, however its rejection, “the result of the abuse, and not of the legitimate exercise, of the powers reserved or conferred in the organization of a Territory. They are not to be charged to the great principle of popular sovereignty. On the contrary, they disappear before the intelligence and patriotism of the people, exerting through the ballot box their peaceful and silent but irresistible power.”[43] Once more, Pierce depicted a divide with on one aspect abolitionist civil disobedience unwilling to abide by political and authorized selections it discovered opposite to conscience and on the different aspect the “peaceful and silent but irresistible power” of conventional democratic self-government; between “lawless violence on the one side and the conservative force on the other, wielded by the legal authority of the general government.”[44]

Pierce’s description of these two competing concepts factors to a central rigidity inside antebellum governance: between democratic self-government and transcendent ethical values, or what historian James Huston has referred to as “Democracy by Process” (“a process of people choosing the laws they lived under. Morality in politics was determined by process, not by outcome.”) and “Democracy by Scripture” (“The purpose of government or a democratic society is to obey [the Christian moral] code more perfectly than other forms of government. The success or failure of democracy is thereby gauged as to how far the outcome deviates from the standard of truth, in this case biblical commandments or biblical reasoning.”).[45] In the first, morality seems incidental so as to make democracy significant. Definitely Pierce and conservative Democrats appeared to assume so; in any case, if morality was main, selection can be secondary, and you wouldn’t have widespread sovereignty, democracy, or any model of free authorities, however a theocracy. Huston even describes this sort of authorities as “inherently (morally) relativistic.”[46] In the second, selection appears incidental for people to stay the life God meant, the life with God in grace, or as Huston notes, “as soon as the moral path is described, there is no choice—except to sin, and that represents the negation of a true choice.”[47] This additionally distinguished conservative Northern Democrats from Southern pro-slavery Democrats as a lot because it from anti-slavery activists. Each professional and anti-slavery advocates claimed God as justification for his or her aspect, slavery as morally proper or incorrect, and each sought limitations on democracy to safe their concepts. Democracy was incidental to each moralities. Thus, on one hand you’ve gotten an amoral democracy of residents, hopefully enlightened and never debauched, and on the different a theocratic aristocracy of ministers and clergymen making males ethical.

However was this rigidity actual? Did Pierce and fellow conservative Northern Democrats (all adherents to some variant of Christianity and its values) align themselves with the forces of amorality and relativism, course of with out values? Pierce was silent on the topic however, as some extent of conjecture, it’s unlikely. First, in making fealty to the Structure a civic faith, the rejection of which might plunge America right into a post-Constitutional hell of anarchy and warfare, Pierce launched an ethical dimension to obeying the regulation and collaborating in constitutional processes. Certainly, he condemned 1850s abolitionists and reformers for “moral treason to the Union.”[48] Second, the democratic course of wasan expression of ethical values—a mixture of selection and Biblical morality—in that the solely grace value having was that which was freely chosen. Subsequently, in style sovereignty and democratic, constitutional self-government was not an expression of ethical ambiguity, however a recognition that grace was a selection and that males should select it themselves for it to carry which means. Massachusetts males making Kansas males manage their communities in a specific approach can be dangerous politics; Massachusetts males making Kansas males ethical can be dangerous theology. In a single was the absence of freedom and selection; in the different was the absence of ethical information and beauty. One made man unfree; one other made man morally ignorant. Pierce believed in style sovereignty and self-government have been important to each.

This rationalization of language and concepts might not redeem Pierce in the eyes of those that see him as a pliant “doughface,” however it restores a level of rationality to his concepts and people of the conservative Northern Democracy. Armed with historic information and political concepts to match, they surveyed American political geography and acted accordingly. Neither their decisions nor their concepts could also be congenial to us. What if males, for instance, lacked the essential civil and private virtues to make prudent decisions? Pierce could be rightly criticized for his naïve perception that males, given liberty in a democratic polity to make selections, would select grace with out the agency authority of ecclesiastical, governmental, and group establishments. His sunny Jeffersonianism contrasts with the human capability and historic document of selecting poorly. Nonetheless, these have been individuals who took democratic self-government critically. In a world the place the survival of democracy was hardly assured, there’s something comprehensible in that.

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1 Harmony Unbiased Democrat, January eight, 1852; Roy Nichols, Younger Hickory of the Granite Hills. Philadelphia: College of Pennsylvania Press, 1931, 191-192, Peter A. Wallner. Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favourite Son. Harmony, NH: Plaidswede Publishing, 2004. 187, 220-221.

2 Congressional Globe, January 9, 1838.

three Daniel Feller, “A Brother in Arms: Benjamin Tappan and Antislavery Democracy,” Journal of American Historical past, 2001, 88 (1), 50; for a dialogue of Democratic Free Soil adherents, additionally see Jonathan Earle, Jacksonian Anti-Slavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854. Chapel Hill: College of NorthCarolina Press, 2004.

four A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897. James D. Richardson, ed. Washington, DC: United States Congress, 1899. V, 359.

5 Ibid, V, 399. The Tackle was roundly attacked by Republicans and the Republican press as inflammatory and partisan. Pierce’s most up-to-date biographer notes, “It may have been impolitic to use the occasion of his final message for such a partisan attack, but Pierce’s honesty always trumped his political sensitivity. He could not leave the national stage without forcibly stating his views.” Peter A. Wallner, Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union. Harmony, NH: Plaidswede Publishing, 2007. 297.

6 James Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan’s Administration, 14.

7 Richardson, V, 224-225.

eight New York Occasions, August 28, 1855.

9 Richardson, V, 343-344.

10 Windfall Every day Publish, July 7, 1863.

11 New York Occasions, August 28, 1855.

12 Ibid.

13 Boston Every day Advertiser, October three, 1856.

14 Richardson, V, 349.

15 Ibid, V, 398-99.

16 Day by day Morning Information [Savannah, GA], 25 Aug, 1855, quoting from the Vindicator [Staunton, VA].

17 Edmund Burke. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Firm, 1987, 7.

18 Richardson, V, 399.

19 North American and United States Gazette [Philadelphia, PA], July 13, 1853.

20 New York Occasions, August 28, 1855.

21 Ibid, December 9, 1859; Antebellum Democrats like Pierce, Douglas, and Buchanan had a fixation with Edmund Burke. See Jean Baker, Affairs of Celebration: The Political Tradition of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell College Press, 1983 and Michael J. Connolly, “‘Tearing Down the Burning House’: James Buchanan’s use of Edmund Burke,” American Nineteenth Century Historical past, Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2009, 211-221.

22 Windfall Every day Submit, July 7, 1863.

23 Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Full Novels and Chosen Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Random Home/Trendy Library, 1937, 1021-1033; Additionally see Gorman Beauchamp, “Hawthorne and the Universal Reformers.” Utopian Research 13, no. 2 (2002): 38-52.

24 Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Life of Franklin Pierce. Portsmouth, NH: Peter E. Randall Publishers, 2000, 16, 82-83; Beauchamp, “Hawthorne,” 39.

25 Richardson, V, 292.

26 Willmoore Kendall. The Conservative Affirmation in America. Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1985, xiii, 36-37.

27 Willmoore Kendall. The American Political Custom. Washington, DC: The Catholic College of America Press, 1995, 149-150.

28 Willmoore Kendall. Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum. Ed. Nellie D. Kendall. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington Home, 1971, 369.

29 Kendall. Custom, 143-144.

30 Franklin Pierce to “Dear Friend,” January 20, 1860. Franklin Pierce Papers, New Hampshire Historic Society (NHHS).

31 Henry David Thoreau. On the Obligation of Civil Disobedience. Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 9, 14.

32 The Weekly Herald [New York], July 16, 1853. The emphasis is mine.

33 New York Occasions, August 28, 1855.

34 Franklin Pierce to James Buchanan, November 20, 1856. James Buchanan Papers, Historic Society of Pennsylvania.

35 Franklin Pierce to “Dear Friend,” February 17, 1860. Pierce Papers, NHHS.

36 Wallner. Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union, 365.

37 Boston Every day Advertiser, October three, 1856.

38 New York Occasions, December 9, 1860 and December 23, 1860.

39 James Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan’s Administration, 35.

40 Orestes Brownson, “The Higher Law,” The Collected Works of Orestes Brownson, XVII, 9-10.

41 Richardson, V, 346-347.

42 Ibid, V, 348-349.

43 Ibid, V, 349.

44 Ibid, V, 391.

45 James L. Huston, “Democracy by Scripture versus Democracy by Process: A Reflection on Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty,” Civil Struggle Historical past, XLIII, three, 1997, 190.

46 Ibid, 195.

47 Ibid, 193.

48 Franklin Pierce to “Dear Friend,” January 20, 1860. Pierce Papers, (NHHS).

Editor’s Notice: The featured picture is a portrait of Franklin Pierce (1804-1853) by artist George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

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