A Madison Quote Debunked

Wikiquotes records a person asking if the above quote is authentic. As with other quotes I have dealt with in the past, this one too seems a little too self-serving to be Madison. Here is the question and answer to the above:

I have come across this quote, attributed to Madison, in several blogs, and would like to know if it is authentic.

….I don’t know that De Leon meant that as an exact quote. It appears that he was speaking extemporaneously, not from a prepared statement. The whole convention was “stenographically reported by B. F. Keinard.”

Earlier, in 1889, De Leon had written an essay, The Voice of Madison, discussing what Madison had written about suffrage and property. De Leon’s essay is a little vague, but I believe that he is talking about remarks that Madison made at the Federal Constitutional Convention and later elaborated upon in a series of notes. Madison is talking about whether the right to vote should be limited to landholders, a restriction he opposed.

There is some similarity in theme between the purported quote and Madison’s discussion of suffrage. Madison does say that, as the population increased, the proportion of the population with property, especially farm land, will decrease. And he discusses the inherent conflict between the rights of those with property and those without. But I don’t see anything about our republic being an impossibility.

De Leon’s essay “The Voice of Madison” was reprinted, along with an essay about Karl Marx, in a small book in 1920, prefaced by the quote in question. De Leon had died in 1914, so he didn’t have the chance to proofread this book, so is not responsible for it appearing there. As I said earlier, I’m not sure that he meant it to be taken as an exact quote.

I hope that helps.

[….]

The purported quote looks more like it is De Leon giving his own quick summary of what Madison had to say in the essay which can be found here.

The question then becomes, who Daniel De Leon, and why would he twist Madison so? The answer is that he was a Marxist (propagandist):

Daniel DeLeon (1852–1914) was an American socialist newspaper editor, politician, Marxist theoretician, and trade union organizer. He is regarded as the forefather of the idea of revolutionary industrial unionism and was the leading figure in the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until the time of his death.

Here is an excellent background to this communist/anarcho-leftist movement in Chicago in the late 1800s that included De Leon:

  • Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003), 13-17.

Also transferred across the Atlantic was the bitter feud between Karl Marx and Michael Bakunin, the son of a Russian nobleman and the father of modern revolutionary anarchism. Bakunin’s ideas and methods became the stock in trade of the nineteenth century’s revolutionary underground—the conspiratorial form of organization, the cult of violence, the loathing of all authority, the quixotic vision of liberty and equality through destruction and chaos. A Revolutionary Socialist party was organized in Chicago in 1881 by an extremist faction which split away from the Socialist Labor party. The arrival in New York the following year of a German Bakuninist, Johann Most, gave the anarchists a mordant spokesman. Most spread the gospel of the “propaganda of the deed,” “expropriation” of the rich, and the beauty of a well-placed stick of dynamite. The “Revolutionary Socialists” and the anarchists united at a convention in Pittsburgh in 1883 and drew up a platform proclaiming that “there is only one remedy left—force.” By 1885, this organization claimed about 7000 members, over twice as many as the politically minded Socialist Labor party.

In a well-ordered society, this sort of agitation might have been dismissed as the ravings of madmen. But the United States of this time was not a particularly well-ordered society. Thousands of immi­grants poured into the country from Europe each year—almost 9,000,000 from 1881 to 1900. The relations between labor and capi­tal were largely undefined and uncontrollable except by sheer force on both sides. Employers fought labor organizations by every possible means. Strikes were ruthlessly crushed by armed guards, police, sheriffs, militia, and federal troops. Court injunctions tied the hands of unions on the mere threat of a strike. Working conditions often ranged from the primitive to the abominable. Bad times followed good times with monotonous regularity.

In this inflammable social climate, socialism, trade unionism, and anarchism were not the only panaceas. When the A.F. of L. was formed, the Knights of Labor boasted three times the membership of the trade unions. The Knights, founded in 1869, came out of a period when labor organizations were compelled to work in secrecy

to overcome the lockouts, blacklists, and forcible resistance of em­ployers. Originally conceived to promote education, mutual aid, and cooperation, it came to spend most of its energy on strikes and boycotts. In one respect, its struggles differed from those of the trade unions: the Knights organized the unskilled and semi-skilled, the trade unions the skilled workers. The decline of the Knights in the period 1886-1900 signified the ascendancy of the skilled craft labor of the trade unions, but the tradition of industrial unionism, which finally prevailed, goes back to the Knights of Labor.

The status quo was challenged from other directions. Henry George attacked land speculation as the source of all social evil and sought to stamp it out by taxing all profits from land equal to the full rental value—the “single tax.” In the great American utopian tradition, Edward Bellamy’s tremendously popular novel, Looking Backward, appeared in 1887. Bellamy’s hero awoke in the year 2000 A.D. to find a world of perfect virtue and virtuous perfection because the state had peacefully expropriated all private industrial enterprise and taken charge of the entire economy on a basis of equality and cooperation. Bellamy’s genteel and ethical vision of socialism ap­pealed to many more native Americans than did Marx’s analysis of the class struggle, but some of those who started with Bellamy ended with Marx. The Christian Socialist movement arose in the late 1880s. Some Protestant thinkers and ministers fought sin in the guise of capitalism and sought salvation in the form of socialism. The essential ideals of socialism were scattered far and wide, and in­corporated into many different systems of thought.

The official Socialist movement, however, was little more than a small, moribund, foreign-language sect until the Socialist Labor party was taken over by that imperious, eccentric, and magnetic personality, Daniel De Leon, in 1890. A lecturer on international law at Columbia University, De Leon had supported Henry George’s candidacy for mayor of New York in 1886 and had passed through both the Knights of Labor and the Bellamy movement. De Leon could not make the S.L.P. into a mass movement but he could give it an unprecedented theoretical vitality. The convert to Marxist doc­trine quickly became its outstanding American interpreter and even went on to do his own thinking in order to fill the gigantic vacuum left by Marx on the nature of the future socialist state. De Leon was a doctrinaire, but a creative one, a combination rarely encountered in Marxian dogmatists. When the future Communist leaders were growing up, De Leon was already a force to be reckoned with, and he initiated some of them into the mysteries of Marxism before that other creative doctrinaire, Lenin, came along to replace him in their affections.

Industrial unionism and Bellamyite utopianism served Eugene Victor Debs as stepping stones to socialism. A former railway fire­man born in Terre Haute, Indiana, Debs organized the American Railway Union on industrial-union lines in 1893. After a turbulent strike against the Pullman car company the following year, a sweeping court injunction, the intervention of government troops, and a debacle for the union, six months in jail for defying the injunction gave Debs the enforced leisure to start studying socialist literature. After this strike setback, Debs devoted himself to a scheme for the cooperative colonization of a sparsely settled Western state. Disap­pointed again, he announced his conversion to socialism in 1897. In­stead of joining forces with De Leon in the Socialist Labor party, how­ever, Debs formed a rival organization, the Social Democratic party, in 1898.

At about the same time, a rebellion began to erupt in the Socialist Labor party. The rebels, led by Morris Hillquit of New York, op­posed De Leon’s domineering personal rule and his anti-A.F. of L. trade-union policy. After much negotiation and maneuvering, the forces behind Debs and Hillquit combined to form the Socialist party of America in 1901. It brought together Christian Socialists and orthodox Marxists, immigrant workers and native intellectuals, trade-union officials and millionaire social reformers. Only a few of the delegates at the first Socialist party convention “had more than the haziest intellectual acquaintance with theoretical Marxism,” writes David A. Shannon. “Certainly the anticapitalism of many of the delegates derived more from Edward Bellamy’s Looking Back­ward than from Das Kapital.”

Those who were looking for a militant, extremist movement, however, were no longer likely to find it in socialism. The most excit­ing new phenomenon in the labor movement in the first decade of the twentieth century—the most impressionable early years of the future Communists—was syndicalism. It arose in the Western states where the craft unionism of the A.F. of L. could not or would not penetrate. The original impulse came from the Western Federation of Miners, formed in 1893 with William D. (Big Bill) Haywood as secretary-treasurer. The mine federation, an industrial union, had stormed out of the A.F. of L., charging lack of support, and had retaliated by setting up independent Western Labor centers, first the Western Labor Union, then the American Labor Union. Finally, a conglomeration of anti-A.F. of L. elements, including those in the American Labor Union, the Socialist Labor party, and the Socialist party, met together to form the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) at Chicago in 1905. At the outset, it was big enough to hold Debs, De Leon, and Haywood—but not for long.

Though most of the organizers of the I.W.W., including Haywood, were avowed socialists, they did not agree on the road to socialism. The fundamental dispute hinged on the old problem of political versus economic action. Should political parties or trade unions or both make the revolution? The orthodox Marxists put their faith primarily in revolutionary parties; the syndicalists, in revolutionary trade unions. The original preamble of the I.W.W.’s constitution referred to a struggle “on the political as well as on the industrial field.” This phrase did not go far enough for those who believed in revolutionary political activity and went too far for those who believed solely in revolutionary trade unionism. Debs left the I.W.W. in 1906 because he felt that it underestimated the importance of po­litical activity. De Leon was ousted in 1908 in a coup executed by an I.W.W. group more sympathetic to anarchism than to socialism. In that same year, the preamble was changed to eliminate the reference to political activity altogether. The I.W.W. developed into an American variety of anarcho-syndicalism whose battle cries were “direct action,” “sabotage,” and the “general strike.”

The Left Wing of the American labor movement before World War I had its deepest roots in two movements—socialism and syndicalism. Therefore it did not have a single home. It was in the main divided in its loyalties among three organizations—the Social­ist Labor party, the Socialist party, and the I.W.W. But that elusive and yet indispensable term—the Left Wing—cannot be fully under­stood organizationally. There are usually a number of rival groups within the Left Wing, each claiming to be the only true Left. The Left Wing of one period differs from the Left Wing of other periods. This instability is characteristic of a term which does not stand for a party or a program but rather for a relative position, and often only for a vague state of mind.

Nevertheless, there has been something like a historic Left in the American labor movement. As one Left Wing has followed an­other, a number of basic issues have recurred again and again. Since the Left Wing was less an organization than a fluctuating body of attitudes and ideas, these issues, more than anything else, gave it an enduring character.

The NYT`s Makes Mince Meat of History for an Ideology ~ JFK

Via NewsBusters:

The left will never get over the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-described Marxist who had previously claimed to be a communist, assassinated John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

The latest evidence of that detachment from reality came online Saturday evening at the New York Times, and appeared in today’s print edition. Writer James McAuley, described as “a Marshall scholar studying history at the University of Oxford,” wrote that Dallas collectively “willed the death of the president,” and that it has prospered disproportionately in the subsequent 50 years because of “pretending to forget.”

To give readers an idea of where McAuley is coming from when he isn’t engaging in dishonest guilt by association, he considers the financial meltdown of 2007-2008 a failure of the “neoliberal paradigm” of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (yes, he calls them “neoliberals”). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the U.S. government-sponsored enterprises whose mismanagement and comprehensive frauds by design actually caused the meltdown, are apparently irrelevant.

McAuley brings some personal issues into his anti-Dallas rant, as seen in the latter portions of the excerpts below. But what’s unreal is the late-in-the-game sentence which contradicts his opening premise (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

NYT's Hit Piece on History

FOR 50 years, Dallas has done its best to avoid coming to terms with the one event that made it famous: the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. That’s because, for the self-styled “Big D,” grappling with the assassination means reckoning with its own legacy as the “city of hate,” the city that willed the death of the president. [1]

… Dallas — with no river, port or natural resources of its own — has always fashioned itself as a city with no reason for being, a city that triumphed against all odds, a city that validates the sheer power of individual will and the particular ideology that champions it above all else. “Dallas,” the journalist Holland McCombs observed in Fortune in 1949, “doesn’t owe a damn thing to accident, nature or inevitability. It is what it is … because the men of Dallas damn well planned it that way.”

Those “men of Dallas” — men like my grandfather, oil men and corporate executives, self-made but self-segregated in a white-collar enclave in a decidedly blue-collar state — often loathed the federal government at least as much as, if not more than, they did the Soviet Union or Communist China. [2] The country musician Jimmy Dale Gilmore said it best in his song about the city: “Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye … a rich man who tends to believe in his own lies.”

For those men, Kennedy was a veritable enemy of the state, which is why a group of them would commission and circulate “Wanted for Treason” pamphlets before the president’s arrival and fund the presciently black-rimmed “Welcome Mr. Kennedy” advertisement that ran in The Dallas Morning News on the morning of Nov. 22. It’s no surprise that four separate confidants warned the president not to come to Dallas: an incident was well within the realm of imagination.

The wives of these men — socialites and homemakers, Junior Leaguers and ex-debutantes — were no different; in fact, they were possibly even more extreme. [3] (After all, there’s a reason Carol Burnett pulls a gun on Julie Andrews at the end of the famous “Big D” routine the two performed before the assassination in the early 1960s. “What are ya,” she screams, pulling the trigger, “some kinda nut?!”)

in the annals of my own family history, it was my charming grandmother, not some distant relation without a Neiman Marcus charge card, who nevertheless saw fit to found the “National Congress for Educational Excellence,” an organization that crusaded against such things as depictions of working women in Texas textbooks and the distribution of literature on homosexuality in Dallas public schools.

In a photograph taken not long after the assassination, my grandmother smiles a porcelain smile, poised and lovely in psychedelic purple Pucci, coiffure stacked high in what can only be described as a hairway to heaven. Her eyes, however, are intent, fixed on a target — liberalism, gender equality, gays.

Dallas is not, of course, “the city that killed Kennedy.” [1]

… For the last 50 years, a collective culpability has quietly propelled the city to outshine its troubled past without ever actually engaging with it. To be fair, pretending to forget has helped Dallas achieve some remarkable accomplishments in those years, like the completion of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the development of the astonishingly successful Cowboys franchise and the creation of what remains one of the country’s most electric local economies.

This year Dallas has a chance to grapple with the painful legacy of 1963 in public and out loud. [5] Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen.

…read the rest…