It has been a working hypothesis since the late 1980s, and a firm assertion since the mid 2000s; that, to paraphrase Lord Chesterfield’s assessment of the French
In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Civic Conflagrations and Wars, now exist and daily increase in America.1
This certainly comes to mind in recent talk of state nullification of Federal Government edicts and decrees by its executive branch, but more so from its judiciary. Nullification reaches back to Vice President John C. Calhoun (1825-32) who spearheaded use of this principle for South Carolina in the North-South tariff wars; one of the causes of the American Civil War, which has largely been forgotten. As the writer states:
But if some states can pick and choose laws, others will surely do the same—and in such a polarized national landscape, they’ll start picking and choosing increasingly contradictory options. Liberals states will start refusing to enforce laws they don’t like. (This happened with the Fugitive Slave Act, in fact; Wisconsin ruled the law unconstitutional; southerners who otherwise championed states’ rights objected; and the Supreme Court overruled it.) It’s a ticket to dissolving the union, all in the name of preventing same-sex unions.
Of course, arrogant overreach by the Federal judiciary into a matter which the U.S. Constitution explicitly states belongs to the states has provoked this reaction. (I reject marriage being under the legislative or definitional jurisdiction of either church or state, on Biblical, theological, historical, philosophical, empirical and political, and social/civic peace grounds. But my opinions are so foreign and outside the mainstream, they matter little even if they are correct.)
However, it was this admission, which has often been noted elsewhere, by which a light bulb was born.
There was always a degree of disparity in the political ethics and sociopolitical structures between each individual state, especially in the early years of the Republic. Then, individual states retained a greater scope of political jurisdiction. Different sectarian mindsets dominated different individual regions; although virtually all belonged to themes and variations of Protestantism except for Maryland. And there have often been single issues (or two or three), which have provoked civic discord and even one major civil conflagration.
However, in minimalist government, the number of points of contact, decided by the collective will, and therefore are sources of contention, remain relatively few. This latter reality has changed since the 1960s. And correspondingly, with so many points of contention, the culture wars developed. The broad-based philosophical and ethical schism divides along secularist liberal versus religious conservative lines.
Ideological and cultural refugees are fleeing to their respective red and blue principalities and duchies; in much the same way that Catholics and Protestants kept moving about in the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) of the 16th and 17th centuries after the Peace of Augsburg (1555). Whatever the religion of the ruler in each of the 224 German states, the people were expected to abide. Dissidents moved in response to the whims of the leading ruler in each duchy.
The Thirty Years War, which eventually involved all of Europe, would kill a third of Germans and devastated their lands, and inflict long-standing damage to the credibility of Christianity in Europe, would follow sixty years later.
And the way of peace they have not known. (Romans 3:17, Isaiah 59:8)
© Copyright Johnny Hutchinson
Lord Chesterfield (British), “Letter on December 25th, 1753”, in Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, 1837. Original quote: “`In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.”