by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Leonidas Polk was born Thursday, April 10, 1806 in Raleigh, North Carolina. For him and his generation, the Revolution and the Constitution, signed, September 17, 1787, were recent history, events witnessed by those they knew.
After graduating from West Point Leonidas returned home to run his plantation and to become active in the Episcopal Church, to which he was drawn during the spiritual revivals of the 1820s, eventually being elected Bishop of Louisiana. He is buried behind the podium in Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans, which he founded.
Leonidas died standing up for the Constitution. More Americans were killed during the War Between the States than would die in all other American wars combined.
With others of his generation, Leonidas, a General of the Confederacy, died attempting to exercise the right every major northern publication and all major figures, including Thomas Jefferson, had affirmed, the right to leave the union of states. The first talk of secession took place in New England by its Federalists less than 15 years after the Constitution was signed.
Emerging from the concluded Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin answered the query of a lady who asked, “Well Doctor, what do we have a Monarchy or a Republic?” Franklin responded with, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
The form of government now existing in America is a serial monarchy, not a Republic.
In a Republic the people are the government, delegating power to those elected to serve them. The people, not elected officials or government are sovereign.
This fact has been recognized by insightful observers since the ground was laid for the conversion of America to centralized Federalism at the time of the Civil War. Slavery, an emotionally volatile issues, was used as an issue because the Northern states could not have taken up arms to force other states to remain.
H. L. Mencken said of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, “It is poetry not logic; beauty, not sense.” “(I)t was the Confederates who fought for the right of people to govern themselves.”
The conflict of 1861 – 1865 was actually a war against the Constitution and the attempts to re characterize this event continues to this day. During the Lincoln Administration the ground was laid for the Federal Reserve System and the Income Tax, both passed into law in 1913.
A Republic, can we return to it? Next Memorial Day put a flower on Leonidas' grave.