The Freedom Caucus’s Obstructionist Tactics Are Not New

The men of the Freedom Caucus

If you follow American politics you know about the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members of the House of Representatives that champion limited government, don’t like outgoing Speaker John Boehner because he is too moderate, and have been making a mess of the process of selecting his replacement.  

As have noted before here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, the Freedom Caucus likes to describe its members (and I assume it constituency) as “Valley Forge Americans.”

The obstructionist tactics of the Freedom Caucus have a long history in American politics.  Michael Todd Landis reminds us of this fact in a recent article at History News Network.  The article is drawn from Landis’s recent book Northern Men with Southern Loyalties: The Democratic Party and the Sectional Crisis

Here is a taste of his article:

Despite what media pundits and talking-heads may say, and despite Americans’ clear displeasure with Congressional inactivity (a recent Gallup poll puts public approval of the legislative branch at an embarrassing 14 percent), federal obstructionism is nothing new. Extreme conservatives have long aimed to gum-up governmental works, decentralize authority, and return power to the states and local elites. The fight dates back to the US Constitution itself, a document vehemently opposed by “Anti-Federalists” suspicious of centralized power and a new, united nation (rather than thirteen separate states).
In the antebellum era, the most energetic obstructionists were Southern enslavers fearful that an empowered government might one day strike at slavery. They opposed all manner of federal action, including seemingly mundane and benign projects such as road and canal building, harbor improvements, river dredging, and western land sales. North Carolina’s Nathaniel Macon declared in 1818, “If Congress can make canals, they can with more propriety emancipate [slaves].” And in 1824, John Randolph of Virginia announced in the House, “If Congress possess the power to do what is proposed in this [internal improvements] bill, they may emancipate every slave in the United States.” For these men, any government action whatsoever was unacceptable, as it would surely lead to the destruction of their “peculiar institution.”

Read the entire essay here.