There is a very ancient concept in the English common law known as a writ of habeas corpus. Governor Edwards’s latest proclamation requiring everyone but those his administration defines as "essential personnel" to stay at home and practice the ridiculously named "social distancing" until April 12th completely upends that tradition of freedom from arbitrary confinement.
For this reason, and for others we will get to below, we encourage everyone to peacefully disobey this order.
We are not supporters of the idea that every man may willy-nilly decide which laws to obey and which not. However, when the government acts in ways that are clearly irrational and destructive of human well-being, it becomes our duty to withstand those acts as best we can.
In the case of this illness, we now know better what we are dealing with:
But what is Gov Edwards (and many other State, federal, and local government officials) doing? They are using the proverbial axe in place of a scalpel. We can and should protect those who are most vulnerable to this disease (which has not reached the proportions of a global pandemic, contrary to the claims) - the elderly, for instance - but we can do that without destroying the livelihoods of millions of people and without wrecking the communal structures men and women need to live normal, healthy lives.
Chief among those communities is the Church. It says volumes that Governor Edwards does not list bishops, priests, deacons, etc., as ‘essential workers’. But it is clear throughout history that without spiritual health, there will be no physical health either. Some priests are pushing back against these bans on church services by the authorities. But we need many more like them to speak up and act for the good of their parishioners.
Considering all this, and considering the cowardice of all other elected officials in Louisiana and across the South, and in other States outside the South, who refuse to protect us from the destructive acts of our various governments, we say plainly: Ignore the stay at home orders. Ignore the orders to act like helpless, ignorant children. Ignore the orders that are destroying our souls and bodies. Pastors, open your churches. Restaurant owners, ready your tables. Schoolmasters, call back your students. Live bravely, like men and women who trust in the Providence of God. That will be our honor in this time, not craven cowering before a new idol: the virus.
Michael Gideon, in the woods he hid,
With many of his kith and kin.
From their homes were driven,
By foemen with clubs and bricks –
Inbreakers, young and rude,
Invaders, old and crude –
Because they loved the Confederate gen’ral
Whose statue did watch o’er the town.
Now beset it is by foemen in their fetid camp,
Awaiting its doom and fate.
Michael Gideon, in the dark of night,
He fished in the stream for fear of the mob,
Michael Gideon, his food he ate
As the plight he turned it o’er in his mind.
Tired from thought, on a tree log he sat.
With groaning prayer, Heaven’s help he besought.
Then still he sat, silent before God.
Then light he saw, radiance all around.
A bright angel he beheld.
Bewildered, to his knees he fell.
‘Rise, Michael Gideon, and be not afraid.
‘The Lord has heard the prayers of you all.
‘The Lord knows your afflictions
‘And will now deliver you from them.
‘Take this sword, and gather the men.
‘In their hands place only flags
‘Bearing Saint Andrew’s Cross.
‘You at their head, lead them
‘To the invader’s camp,
‘And say together with mighty voice,
‘ “A sword for the Lord
‘ “And the General!”
‘Shout these words, but touch not
‘An hair of their heads,
‘And you will see your deliverance.’
At this he vanished; night-dark returned.
Michael Gideon, the sword he held.
The blade, clear as crystal,
Gathered the light of the moon and stars
And shone with beauty gentle.
The hilt, smooth and silver,
Calmed and strengthened the one who held it.
Forth he strode, the men he gathered.
Out they went, together they sallied.
Scalawags round the Gen’ral were crowding.
To destroy his memory, for this they were yearning.
Michael Gideon and his host approached.
Black-skinned and white, they uplifted their cry,
‘A sword for the Lord
‘And the General!’
Again and again they shouted,
As forward they went, and new wonder they saw:
A flame round the blade was blazing,
Holy fire from Heaven to frighten the foe.
The fire of the sword, to the host it spread.
The fire of the sword, in their eyes it burned.
When the sight they beheld,
And the yelling they heard,
Struck with terror they were,
And their evil plans forgot.
In their confusion and fear,
They trampled each other.
In their confusion and fear,
They fled far away.
The townsmen lifted a mighty shout
Of thanks to God, and cleansed the statue
And square of all befouling.
Then heartily they cheered for the Gen’ral they loved.
Michael Gideon took his sword,
The flame now gone, and with priestly blessing
Laid it in church atop the altar
For safe-keeping against an evil day.
Michael Gideon, the statue he saved,
The foes away he chased.
Michael Gideon, no praise he seeks,
Only to plow his fields and teach Old Greek.
How much influence should large metro areas have in Statewide elections? That is a question nearly all the States face today. Kentucky’s recent election for governor puts the question starkly before us: In a State with 120 counties, only 23 have decided the winner. The results of Louisiana’s choice for governor are similar, though less lopsided.
The backcountry is not being well-served by this system. The more traditional voices of the sparsely populated ‘red counties’ are being drowned out by the overwhelming numbers of the enemies of tradition in the ‘blue counties’. The strife this creates is obvious for all to see, but it is the necessary outcome of adhering to the doctrine of the numerical majority.
There is no reason, however, to bind ourselves forever to the rotting carcass of this pestilential political ideal. It is time for what Englishmen and Romans (the spirits of both of whom have been very much present in the South) have excelled at so often in their histories: a little prudent reform. No building castles in the clouds; rather, only realistic, concrete proposals for human beings living in this part of the world.
As we have said above, two main divisions exist in the States at the present moment: the untraditional large cities and the traditional hinterland of the counties. A way for the two to protect their interests at the State level is needed. John C. Calhoun nearly two hundred years ago, provided us with an answer: the plural executive, each with the power of veto.
His examination of Roman and English history showed him the benefits of this type of system. What he says about Ancient Rome, which had developed a system by which the two main classes in the Roman lands, the patricians and plebeians, could veto one another’s proposed laws as well as stop the execution of them, is worth examining. In the passage below, Mr Calhoun details the benefits such a system bestowed upon Old Rome, exactly the kinds of benefits the States are missing out on with their current winner-take-all, single executive system:
No measure or movement could be adopted without the concurring assent of both the patricians and plebeians, and each thus became dependent on the other; and, of consequence, the desire and objects of neither could be effected without the concurrence of the other. To obtain this concurrence, each was compelled to consult the goodwill of the other, and to elevate to office, not those only who might have the confidence of the order to which they belonged, but also that of the other. The result was, that men possessing those qualities which would naturally command confidence—moderation, wisdom, justice, and patriotism—were elevated to office; and these, by the weight of their authority and the prudence of their counsel, combined with that spirit of unanimity necessarily resulting from the concurring assent of the two orders, furnish the real explanation of the power of the Roman State, and of that extraordinary wisdom, moderation, and firmness which in so remarkable a degree characterized her public men.
Now, the best system of government the States have lived under seems to have been the one they were born into – not one stitched together from new theories and speculations but one of inherited, time-honored lore and customs. In it, each colony/State/ethnos was able to live life according to its own folkways without interference from the others. The harmony of all of them was maintained by occasional regulations from the King of England and his Parliament, which were enforced by the royal governors and other officials appointed by the Crown. But local political bodies (town councils, county courts, State Houses of Representatives, jury trials, etc.) kept careful watch and objected if any of them overstepped proper bounds. But if the peoples of the States will not have it (and various strains of ‘American exceptionalism’ make many people recoil from it as though it were a venomous snake), then what Mr Calhoun proposed with his plural executive is a good alternative.
One of the worst political mistakes the States have made has been to jumble all ages, classes, occupations, etc. into one undifferentiated mass of voters and then ask this polyglot creation to speak with a unified, harmonious voice. What we have gotten instead is unending friction and dissatisfaction. Instead of trying to enforce a false, chimerical unity, we need to winnow and separate. Let the two dominant interests in each State, the rural and the urban, elect its own executive (the current governor chosen by a Statewide vote would no longer be necessary). Population density above or below a certain threshold would qualify a county as either urban or rural. Only when the two executives are in agreement should a proposed law or executive order be enacted, or an executive action undertaken. But if either one of them object, the proposal will not be enacted or undertaken.
If this makes political action at the State level more difficult (and it probably would), then it is a great opportunity for local institutions to take the reins and govern. This is where most decisions ought to be made, in counties and towns, neighborhoods and churches.
Because of this, everyone would have a little breathing space, a little elbow room, a chance to tend and nurture his own culture and appreciate the good in the culture of his red or blue neighbors in the other counties. And through this arrangement, perhaps more cooperation and less partisanship could be found at the State level. But if not, then at least each culture will be able to live peaceably enough under the diligent guardianship of the co-executive it has sent to the capital to protect its way of life.
But none of this will happen so long as the erroneous doctrine of the Supreme Court in Washington City of ‘one man, one vote’ is in force. Mr Justice Frankfurter well described the futility of trying to enforce a rigid numerical equality of representation within the States in his dissent in Baker v Carr, one of the lynchpins undergirding ‘one man, one vote’:
A hypothetical claim resting on abstract assumptions is now for the first time made the basis for affording illusory relief for a particular evil even though it foreshadows deeper and more pervasive difficulties in consequence. The claim is hypothetical, and the assumptions are abstract, because the Court does not vouchsafe the lower courts -- state and federal -- guidelines for formulating specific, definite, wholly unprecedented remedies for the inevitable litigations that today's umbrageous disposition is bound to stimulate in connection with politically motivated reapportionments in so many States. In[p268] such a setting, to promulgate jurisdiction in the abstract is meaningless. It is as devoid of reality as "a brooding omnipresence in the sky," for it conveys no intimation what relief, if any, a District Court is capable of affording that would not invite legislatures to play ducks and drakes with the judiciary. For this Court to direct the District Court to enforce a claim to which the Court has over the years consistently found itself required to deny legal enforcement and, at the same time, to find it necessary to withhold any guidance to the lower court how to enforce this turnabout, new legal claim, manifests an odd -- indeed an esoteric -- conception of judicial propriety. One of the Court's supporting opinions, as elucidated by commentary, unwittingly affords a disheartening preview of the mathematical quagmire (apart from divers judicially inappropriate and elusive determinants) into which this Court today catapults the lower courts of the country without so much as adumbrating the basis for a legal calculus as a means of extrication. Even assuming the indispensable intellectual disinterestedness on the part of judges in such matters, they do not have accepted legal standards or criteria or even reliable analogies to draw upon for making judicial judgments. To charge courts with the task of accommodating the incommensurable factors of policy that underlie these mathematical puzzles is to attribute, however flatteringly, omnicompetence to judges. The Framers of the Constitution persistently rejected a proposal that embodied this assumption, and Thomas Jefferson never entertained it.
As the Justice shows elsewhere in his dissent, this kind of egalitarianism has never been part of the English or American (of whatever section of the unnecessary union) political traditions; or, we might add, since we have mentioned her above, the Roman political tradition. There has always been a disproportionate distribution of political power given to the various classes, orders, etc. of those societies in order to keep a healthy balance of power amongst them. This disproportion has shifted over the years, but the principle has never been repudiated. Even today under the current federal constitutional plan, the Electoral College and the Senate give a greatly disproportionate weight to the small States like Delaware and Rhode Island that is quite at odds with the doctrine of ‘one man, one vote’.
Good neighbors build tall fences, Prof M. E. Bradford once said. But in order to build those fences within the States between the urban and rural counties, Baker v Carr and its wretched offspring must be challenged anew (or, dare we say it, simply ignored, since they are very far from the norm found in the common law).
Our old traditions must be reclaimed and vindicated. And at this present hour, one way of doing that is to establish the plural executive.
Into the violent wagon
We all are loaded
And go a-trundling
With radio blaring
At speed immoderate;
Passed the cell phone towers
With their spikes a-bristling,
For an age humane;
To cross a river,
Up an absurdly arcing bridge,
Metal coach rumbling
Above the squirrels’ nests;
Asked the computer
Oracle, ‘Are we lost?’
The motor killed,
The doors fly open,
Arms are flung around necks -
What a pretty way
To visit distant kin.
The Holy Apostle Paul warned the elders over the Christians in Ephesus that ‘grievous wolves’ and other dishonorable men would arise in their congregation shortly after his leave-taking from them (Acts 20:29, 30). We believe that such men have come amongst us here in the South, where many of the churches have become yet another means by which to destroy Southern culture and identity, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Displaying the American Flag
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.