Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Religion and Racism II

A month ago I posted some thoughts on the links and parallels between religion and racism.  I recently came across a bit of evidence that I think sheds some light on this issue.

Here are links to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.  If you compare them, you will find some interesting differences, as well as a number of similarities.

One of the most telling differences occurs in their respective preambles.  The United States Constitution's preamble is as follows:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The Confederate States Constitution's preamble is slightly different:

"We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America."  [Emphasis added.]

Two things immediately jump out at the reader.  First, the emphasis on states rights in the preamble to the Confederate Constitution.  Second, and more important to my point, is the explicit statement of religiosity, which is conspicuously absent from the entire United States Constitution.

Do not be fooled by the reference to states rights in the Confederate preamble.  The drafters were clearly re-writing the United States Constitution from their own perspective and found the emphasis on federalism implicit in the "more perfect Union" phrase objectionable.  Many modern historical revisionists wish to convince people that the secession of the Confederate states and the Civil War were motivated by states' rights rather than slavery.  Their efforts, however, ignore the obvious question:  States' rights to do what, exactly?  The answer, of course, was the right to continue the practice of slavery in spite of what those in the rest of the United States thought of the practice.

Indeed, when one turns to the Bill of Rights in the Confederate Constitution, one finds explicit and strong evidence of the importance of slavery and the economic system is sustained.  The Confederate Constitution included its bill of rights in the actual document rather than in amendments, but the very first item on the list was a ban on the importation of new slaves from outside the Confederate or United States.  This may seem odd given the Confederate states' support of slavery until one remembers that importing new slaves would lower the value of those already present.  Seen in that light, the provision is clearly meant to protect the economic interests of slaveholders.

What we know as the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution doesn't appear in the Confederate bill of rights until item number 12, but it is identical in wording.  The first 10 items in the Confederate bill of rights, however, all relate to slaves, slaves as property, and money (with the exception of the third, which deals with the writ of habeas corpus).  These items and their importance to the Confederate cause are thus made clear by their primacy in the list.

In other respects, the Confederate Constitution mirrors, more or less, the United States Constitution on religious matters.  There is a provision stating that no religious test shall be required for office holders.  The date of adoption doesn't say "in the year of our Lord", but this appears to be a scrivener's error because that phrase is used previously in the document when mentioning a specific date for the Confederate post office to become self-sufficient.

Given that the Confederate Constitution was adopted on March 11, 1861, less than three months after the first state, South Carolina, seceded from the Union, and given that much of the document was obviously copied from the United States Constitution, one can conclude that the secular provisions were not necessarily indicative of the character of those who put together the draft document.  The character of those drafting the Confederate Constitution can be discerned by the changes they chose to make, such as the invocation to god in the preamble.

The character of those in the Confederate states was clear then, racist and religious, and is clearly still the same even now as the most religious states today are also the same ones that were members of the confederacy--or wanted to be, in the case of Kentucky.  They are also the most racist.  I do not think this is a coincidence.

Religion and Racism

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