Southern Tradition – Brion McClanahan

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Scaling Things Down In America

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript“Let’s go to the Dude Maker Hotline.  We’ll say hello to old friend, Professor Brion McClanahan.  Brion and I wrote a book that sits on shelves out there collecting dust called Is Davis A Traitor?  Well, we didn’t write it.  We edited it and brought it into the 21st century so that it could sit on shelves and collect dust.”  Check out today’s transcript for the rest….

Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  . . . to the Dude Maker Hotline.  We’ll say hello to old friend, Professor Brion McClanahan.  Brion and I wrote a book that sits on shelves out there collecting dust called Is Davis A Traitor?  Well, we didn’t write it.  We edited it and brought it into the 21st century so that it could sit on shelves and collect dust.

Brion McClanahan:  That happens, Mike.  It’s unfortunate but it happens.

Mike:  It happens because there’s too much truth in it.  There’s too much constitutional truth in it and people pick that book up and, [mocking] “Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!  That’s not what I was told!”

McClanahan:  Unfortunate.  You don’t get Bledsoe in your constitutional history courses.  You don’t even get that position in your constitutional history courses.  You get Story and Webster and Lincoln and Marshall.  It’s unfortunate that the side that really matters, which would be Bledsoe and Tucker and Taylor and all the great Virginians, it’s not there.  Of course, Bledsoe wasn’t even a Virginian.  The Virginia school is the school that people should be reading, outside of Marshall.  Forget him for a minute.  People have read it.  It sold some copies.  That’s okay.

Mike:  It sold some copies.  It’s in digital format, too.  That was the purpose of republishing the book, to digitize it and make it so that the copy is actual digital copy, not just an image of the original copy, which is what we did when we published our copy of Is Davis a Traitor: Was There a Constitutional Right to Secession Previous to the War of 1861.  It’s still available in paperback at and Amazon.  As I said, you can download it.

You know the most amazing thing?  I was just going through some old files the other day.  We’re actually updating some of the books that we wrote earlier, and that’s one of them, or that we republished.  We’re bringing them into Adobe InDesign because it has a powerful interface to do indexes and all sorts of things that are like the industry standard.  I was looking at Bledsoe.  I can’t remember why I decided to do it, but I went down

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one of those rabbit holes when you’re researching something.  Brion, the principal part of that book was written while he was in England.  What I’m amazed about that is, how did the English have access to so much actual American history and we don’t?

Brion:  That’s sad, isn’t it?  Of course, he was over there and ostensibly the idea was that he was trying to persuade the British to accept the Southern position.  Of course, they already had diplomats there.  That was his job.  You’re right.  There were many British scholars who accepted the Southern position.  It wasn’t just Bledsoe over there working by candlelight in his own little corner of a room somewhere.  There were other British scholars who said: Look, the South is following the correct position here, and we should support them.  Of course, it didn’t work out that way.  It’s a shame that – you’re right, Americans don’t have access to this stuff.  Even during the war there were people in the North saying the exact same thing, but they were in the minority so they couldn’t do anything about it.  You had a slim majority in the North that was interested in prosecuting the war.  They were able to do it for four years and ended up winning.  I don’t have an answer to the question why this side hasn’t gotten out or why the British had it more.  It’s just that the United States was split at that point.  You had some people in the North who would.  Of course Southerners acted on it.  It’s a shame that nowadays when this particular idea could be so powerful, it’s still suppressed.

Mike:  We have access to the material, but the material that finds its favor, it seems to me, and that is preferred by the academic – like our mutual friend Tom Woods says: Look, citizen, there is a 3×5 index card of approved thoughts on it.  Follow this for the rest of your life and we’ll leave you alone.  You can watch all the porn you want.  We’ll give you digital television and all that.  Make any attempt to step outside that box, though, pal, and you’ll get kicked off the Patriot Channel on Sirius.  You’ll be sentenced to teaching classes in northern Alabama junior colleges.  Your buddy Professor Gutzman will be trapped in western Connecticut State.

McClanahan:  That’s pretty much it.  You’re taking a stand.  It’s a heroic stand.  But you are in a position where you’re not going to be in the mainstream.  That’s something you just have to accept.  Honestly, I’m more optimistic.  When you compare what’s going on now to, say 15 years ago or 20 years ago, it’s so much better than it was then.  The internet really has helped get this information out there.  There are people coming around to it all the time.  Just look at the ideas of the human scale, as Don Livingston puts it, and small is beautiful.  Even on the left, there are people on the left starting to say: Look, maybe these agrarian farmers and organic farmers, maybe there’s something to this.  Maybe we need to have small communities.  Maybe we need to look at scaling things down.  The one-size-fits-all idea doesn’t work.  You’re seeing it on issues that are normally on the left.

Brion McClanahnDrug legalization, that’s an issue that the states have just said: You know what, federal government?  We’re not going to listen to you anymore.  This is our prerogative.  This could apply to a number of things.  Of course, we saw it in the other way with same-sex marriage where the states were trying to say: You know what, federal government?  We’re not going to do this.  You have the federal judges get involved and create all kinds of chaos.  That issue has really sparked some interest in the whole small is better idea in certain states, Oklahoma is one.  Of course, Mark Kreslins, as you announced, is going to be on your program.  He’s really interested in that in Oklahoma.  There’s a lot of good things going on.  We have to be positive.  If we get too pessimistic and negative, it’s easy just to get worn down and say: Forget it.  I’m just going to get on the 3×5 index card again and make my life happy.  We’re making some progress.

Mike:  I’ve been meaning to ask you, what is your official title at Abbeville Institute?  Are you the president?  Are you the director?

McClanahan:  I’m just on the board of directors, but I run the website.  Anything that goes on the website, I put it up there and do all of that stuff.  And, of course, I write for it frequently.  There are several of us on the board.  Anytime we do conferences, I speak at the conferences.  There are, I want to say six or seven people on the board.  Don is still the president.

Mike:  In the old station, in the old country, one of the last shows that I did, I actually used your piece about Pope Francis and the South.  I thought you were onto something.

McClanahan:  It was a piece that actually people got quite upset with me about.  We can look at Pope Francis and look at what he’s saying and say: Okay, these things aren’t necessarily accurate.  There is something behind this.  The idea of the Southern tradition, and based on a Christian society – I know you wanted to talk about that piece “The Same Old Stand?”

Mike:  I do.

McClanahan:  This is kind of the same thing John Shelton Reed was saying.  You need to have a society based on human scale, human order, a God-centered society.  What is wrong with saying we need to treat people more humanely?  What’s wrong with saying that we need to respect the environment?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The Pope is misguided in going to political leaders to try to do these things.  On a personal level, on a human level, what’s wrong with those things?  That was at the heart of the Southern tradition in many ways.  The Pope simply articulating something that the Southern tradition is quite fond of, and that’s small is beautiful, respect the environment, respect your fellow man in a Christian society.  I know that people don’t like the Pope because they think he’s getting too involved in politics, and you can make that critique.  The critique of capitalism, too, the South was very interested in a different type of capitalism all throughout its history.  I think if you look at the Southern tradition and the Pope, there’s something to it in attaching the two together.

Mike:  It’s fascinating to me, if we stack them up in order and went Patrick Henry, John Taylor of Caroline, who would you throw in between Taylor of Caroline and the “I’ll take my stand” guys?  Some of the guys that were in Forgotten Conservatives, right, the book that you and Professor Wilson wrote?

McClanahan:  Absolutely.  If you start looking at the late antebellum period in terms of thinkers?

Mike:  Let’s do early antebellum.


McClanahan:  Gosh, that’s a tough question.  The idea of the agrarian South – look, it’s the old republicans.  That whole strain really pushed through the whole antebellum period.  It’s hard to so there’s a guy, some thinker in that antebellum period outside of that 18th, early 19th century thought process, that really articulated it any better.  They didn’t.  You have to really get to the late 19th and early 20th century to start seeing it again.  It would be that “I’ll take my stand” group.  You did have some of the new South scholars.  One interesting family I talked about in the institute was the Callaway family of Georgia.  Not a whole lot of people know about them unless you’ve gone to Callaway Gardens or you know about Callaway Golf.  This is the Callaway Family.

Mike:  Is it really?  I didn’t know they were Callaway Golf.  I knew they were Callaway Gardens.

Veritas_Radio_home_4McClanahan:  Yes, they’re the same family.

Mike:  I’m going to start playing Callaway balls then.  I’m done with Titleist.

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McClanahan:  The Callaway Family used to have a big PGA event up at Callaway Gardens, the golf course they had there, for years.  That whole gardens started because the Callaway Family had this old land.  They were interested in preserving the Southern tradition, they were interested in agrarian society, but they had textile mills.  They had textile mills and, very famously, to try to make American citizens.  That was the whole point.  They had a much more paternalistic labor system.  It wasn’t this arch capitalist system.  You found that all throughout the South in these mills.  Then they had this land and they said: We need to bring these gardens to the people.  We need to have something the people can enjoy, so they opened Callaway Gardens, Cason Callaway and Virginia Callaway.  The funny thing is, when you go to Callaway Gardens, you have this conservation ethic, ethos, which Gifford Pinchot was famous for.  The government conserves land and the people ruin it, private individuals ruin it.  I was shocked, when you go into Callaway Gardens, in their introductory video, they confront that head on.  They say: Look, Callaway Gardens is an example of private initiative saving the environment, and it doesn’t take the government to do it.  I love Callaway Gardens for that very reason, a lot of other reasons, but that’s a great reason to love Callaway Gardens.

End Mike Church Show Transcript

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