Pertaining to war one of the more famous quotes is from the Prussian Military genius Carl von Clausewitz who said;
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
What von Clausewitz didn’t say but should’ve said — something which is every bit as true — is that politics is the continuation of theology by other means.
We bring this up in order to argue that in order to understand the War Against the Constitution one has to begin with theology since theology is the foundational point as to why wars — any war — is made.
War is the continuation of politics by other means and politics is the continuation of theology by other means.
Men come into conflict for a host of reasons but always laying at the foundation of those reasons is that they have conflicting views about the nature and reality of God. Because this is so, the contesting participants are being animated by different world and life views which are themselves dependent ultimately upon each contesting participants view of God or the gods.
The ancients understood this better than we did. They understood that people’s warring with one another was just a reflection of the gods of those people going to war with one another.
This is perhaps most vividly expressed in the OT when Israel and Egypt are in conflict regarding Israel’s release. The Scripture clearly communicates in the plagues that God of the Hebrews is making war on the gods of the Egyptians. Since the God of the Bible wins out Israel wins out in their contest over Egypt.
So, what I am saying here is that the ultimate cause in the War of Northern Aggression is that North and South each had different World and life views which were themselves reflective of the fact that each were serving different God/gods.
I can sustain this observation with just a few quotes;
The first is from famous Southern Theologian James Henley Thornwell. Thornwell supports my contention that in the War for Secession that first and foremost cause was a difference in the Gods who were owned by North and South. Thornwell offers,
“The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders—they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground—Christianity and atheism the combatants, and the progress of humanity at stake.”
Clearly, Thornwell sees the conflict first and foremost as between the Gods. The South is fighting for a God described as one who accounts for regulated freedom, while the North is fighting for their god who is but man said loudly.
Benjamin Moran Palmer, another one of the South’s great Theologians concurred with Thornwell. This is from Palmer’s famous 1860 Thanksgiving day Sermon,
“In this great struggle, we defend the cause of God and religion. The abolition spirit is undeniably atheistic. The demon which erected its throne upon the guillotine in the days of Robespierre and Marat, which abolished the Sabbath and worshiped reason in the person of a harlot, yet survives to work other horrors, of which those of the French Revolution are but the type. Among a people so generally religious as the American, a disguise must be worn; but it is the same old threadbare disguise of the advocacy of human rights. From a thousand Jacobin clubs here, as in France, the decree has gone forth which strikes at God by striking at all subordination and law. Availing itself of the morbid and misdirected sympathies of men, it has entrapped weak consciences in the meshes of its treachery; and now, at last, has seated its high priest upon the throne, clad in the black garments of discord and schism, so symbolic of its ends. Under this suspicious cry of reform, it demands that every evil shall be corrected, or society become a wreck—the sun must be stricken from the heavens, if a spot is found upon his disk. The Most High, knowing his own power, which is infinite, and his own wisdom, which is unfathomable, can afford to be patient. But these self-constituted reformers must quicken the activity of Jehovah or compel his abdication….
This spirit of atheism, which knows no God who tolerates evil, no Bible which sanctions law, and no conscience that can be bound by oaths and covenants, has selected us for its victims, and slavery for its issue. Its banner-cry rings out already upon the air—”liberty, equality, fraternity,” which simply interpreted mean bondage, confiscation and massacre. With its tricolor waving in the breeze,—it waits to inaugurate its reign of terror. To the South the high position is assigned of defending, before all nations, the cause of all religion and of all truth.”
Benjamin Morgan Palmer
Sermon: The South, Her Peril and Her Duty, November 1860
That this mindset of the War Against the Constitution was a religious war … was a war that was first and foremost a war where the God’s were at war was an opinion also shared by the North. Thomas Fleming in his book, “A Disease in the Public Mind” brings this out. Quoting Fleming;
“The abolitionists convinced themselves, based on their evangelical experiences, that smearing the South’s reputation in every possible way would create the “anxiety” that would lead to a mass conversion of the North to their crusade. In an analogy that was tortured at best, and blasphemous at worst, the South was portrayed as a province ruled by Satan that would consume the North’s soul if her citizens did not vow to expunge the sin of slavery. It was the evangelical camp meeting on a National scale, accusing the South of four unforgivable sins: violence, drunkenness, laziness, and sexual depravity…. Abolitionist clergymen developed a jeremiad on the Slave power. They identified it as the Anti-Christ, come to terrifying life in America after their Protestant ancestors had defeated this evil being in a centuries-long struggle with the Catholic Church in Europe. The South was the ‘apocalyptic dragon’ of the book of Revelations, rising to strangle freedom in the North as it already extinguished it in the South…. Senator William Sumner of of Massachusetts summed up his rampaging hatred with three questions he roared at the rapt audience in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “Are you for freedom? Or are you for slavery? Are you for God or the Devil?
A Disease In The Public Mind — pg. 177-178
So before the cause of the War was about Tariffs, before the cause of the War was about what would be the nature of American labor, before the cause of the war was about slavery, before the cause of the war was about how the Constitution should be interpreted, the War of Northern Aggression should be first understood in terms of what caused the war, in terms of the conflict that existed as between the different God(s) that were worshipped, North and South.
I would contend that the South existed as one of the last if not the last vestiges of Christendom in the West. The Southern Army was a Christian army as seen by its Christian leadership and its Christian piety. The Christianity of men like Lee, Jackson, Dabney, and Polk and many others is well known. The book “Christ in the Camp,” vividly demonstrates the centrality of Christianity in the life of the Southern army. The Confederate Battle Flag, which, as you know, is the St. Andrew’s Cross bear testimony that the Southern Army was a Christian Army.
In contrast the Northern Army demonstrated the God they served by not only their actions (Sherman’s Bummers / Burning down of Columbia) but also in their battle song. Time does not permit us to expose the god of the Battle Hymn of the Republic but I assure you that the God of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is not the God of the Bible.
So there you have it. The primary cause of the War Against the Constitution was the fact that each contestant — North vs. South, were defending their god and their gods. There would have been no war were it not the fact that the North were not serving and beholden to a false god.
Eugene Genovese supports my thesis when he wrote in his “Southern Front,”
“Shortly before his death Thornwell went further. Cautiously, in his ‘Sermon on National Sins,’ preached on the eve of the War, and boldly in a remarkable paper on ‘Relation to the State to Christ’ prepared for the Presbyterian church as a memorial to be sent to the Confederate Congress, he called upon the South to dedicate itself to Christ. He criticized the American Founding Fathers for having forgotten God and for having opened up the Republic to the will of the majority.
“A foundation was thus laid for the worst of all possible forms of government — a democratic absolutism.’
To the extent to which the state is a moral person, he insisted, ‘it must needs be under moral obligation and moral obligation without reference to a superior will is a flat contradiction in terms.’ Thornwell demanded that the new constitution be amended to declare the CSA in submission to Jesus for, ‘to Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth is committed.’ Vague recognition of God would not do. The State must recognize the Triune God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The Southern Front — p. 40
Now, as to how the service of these different gods expressed themselves we turn. In the North, the prevailing religion that serviced the god of the North was called “Romanticism/Transcendentalism.” This was the religion of the God of the North.
End Part I
I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling.
I am postmillennial in my eschatology.
Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity
Reformed in my Soteriology
Presuppositional in my apologetics
Familialist in my family theology
Agrarian in my regional community social order belief
Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief
Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic
Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern
Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview
One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics
Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place
Some of my favorite authors,
Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc.
My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture.
Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.
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4 thoughts on “Ultimate Cause of War Against the Constitution — Part I”
Excellent (and timely) article! Did you know Lloyd Sprinkle? Many of the books he published (including J W Jones’ ‘Christ in the Camp’ and W W Bennett’s ‘The Great Revival in the Southern Armies’ were in the vein of this post.
I did not know him but I did order plenty of books from Sprinkle in the day.
“I would contend that the South existed as one of the last if not the last vestiges of Christendom in the West. The Southern Army was a Christian army as seen by its Christian leadership and its Christian piety. The Christianity of men like Lee, Jackson, Dabney, and Polk and many others is well known.”
This truth was, for me, the first loose string I started to pull in the tapestry of lies that we were all taught in modern America. How could it be that the truly Godly leaders were all southern and yet I am supposed to believe they were so very wrong? After understanding this I started to pull on other strings until the whole Jacobin framework came tumbling down. My understanding of our history changed when I recognized that we truly are living under a “democratic absolutism”, and have been since 1865 .
I suspect you already know of these sources, but maybe you have some readers who are not aware of them; I have found the “Southern Presbyterian Review” on logcollegepress.com to be immensely enlightening. Speaking of (enlightenment), there is a youtube channel called “Asha Logos” that recently started an excellent series on the French Revolution.
Thanks for the good work.
Never quit, never give in, fight to the end.