We Found It

02.12.13

The South's Contribution (Singular!)

I read through your comments on my challenge about the South yesterday. Interesting. Not bad. Not overwhelmingly persuasive.

From mngeller: the Constitution, and the 16th and 17th amendments (the income tax; direction election of senators).

Constitution--okay, Madison took the lead, but really: Yes, the Constitution was a miraculous document, except for the problematic matter of its endorsement of slavery. All these PBS shows and things celebrating the genius of the Constitution, well, yes, but there's a pretty large BUT there, and we all know why it was in there.

16th Amendment--there's a little something to this one. Apparently the income tax was seen as a substitute for tariffs, which of course the South opposed. So lo and behold the South was pro income-tax. Kind of amazing but true. In any it ought to be noted that the tax was pushed by a president from Ohio, Taft, and by senators from Nebraska and Rhode Island, although it's true as mngeller writes that the first states to pass the amendment were southern ones.

17th amendment--can't agree to that one. This was pushed for most by William Jennings Bryan and the Progressives, all Midwestern. It is true that some Yankee senators voiced the most forceful opposition. But the South was split. In fact, six of the eight states that refused to ratify were Southern (I include here Kentucky, not a CSA state, but Southern).

From AuRevoirGopher: the Populist Party. Sure enough, it was founded at a meeting in Meridian, Mississippi in 1888. Some of the people were Midwestern. Again, Bryan was really the key historica figure here. But fair enough. It was a Southern-Midwestern radical-agrarian party that opposed fat-cat financial interests.

A friend noted that it was interesting no one said banking reform. Glass and Steagall were both southerners. They obviously came out of the Populist Party tradition to some extent.

Then there's the whole question of Jacksonian Democracy. The progressive part of that was the extension of the franchise (to all white males, but still), although it had its downsides too (patronage, Manifest Destiny, and of course support for slavery). So that's quasi-progressive at best.

From Ben: "Are you or any of your heroes aware that the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the Fugitive Slave Act in the 1850s? I won't hold my breath waiting for you to grapple with that."

I wasn't, I confess. His point being I guess that nullification wasn't limited to the South. Fair enough. I oppose nullification by states of duly passed laws of Congress. I would say that this case is mitigated a little by the fact that the FSA of 1850 was one of the most reactionary laws ever passed in this country, probably, and a pretty direct reason we ended up splitting and going to war.

So we have the South's contribution: For about 50 years there, the region as a whole was fairly progressive on matters pertaining to banking. So there is one thing. Which of course is long gone now.