There’s a certain splendor to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint’s retelling of the history of the Civil War. It’s almost as if DeMint and Sarah Palin are both graduates of the same finishing school for garbled buffoonery. I think this comment belongs on a plaque in the Smithsonian as a living testament to what has become of conservative “thought leaders” in this country.

“Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.”
Fmr. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, April 2014

Ian Millhiser detailed the many errors in this statement so that I don’t have to. I’d like to point out a few things, though, in addition. It’s true that the Dred Scott decision was unfortunate, but not nearly as unfortunate as DeMint’s home state’s decision to secede from the Union, fire on federal troops, and seize all federal property in Charleston months before Abraham Lincoln was even inaugurated.

I could be somewhat forgiving of DeMint’s conflation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution if not for the unintentional offense DeMint’s argument creates for black folks who were not very keen on the Constitution as it was worded before the federal government fought and won a war that allowed the federal government to amend it.

The philosopher/theologian in me also wants to know approximately how many “minds” God possesses. Also, where does DeMint stand on the idea that the Columbian [Wooly] Mammoth, was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field?

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at