It is all well and good to stand for liberty, but if you cannot fight to defend it, all your pretty words are meaningless. It is all very good to be a hawk in the protection of your country, but if you overlook the liberties you are fighting for in your eagerness to win the fight, then you are ultimately no patriot. It is a rare man who is both good at war and still remembers during the din of battle what he is supposed to be defending.
That Joseph Alston, as Governor of South Carolina during the War of 1812, was not a great leader of men is true. When he called up the militia, they came, but they refused to follow his orders, and eventually went home. And when he wanted to court martial their leaders, he was thwarted by a writ of habeas corpus that required him to let the men go.
Now, a charismatic man like Andrew Jackson would not have stood for that. He would have declared martial law, incarcerated the judge, put away any journalists who spoke up against his tyrannical actions, and created an armed camp out of the city he was visiting.
Though Alston was no great hero, and there is much to criticize in his handling of the war, he at least recognized the rule of law. Jackson was a good military leader, but he did not live by the rule of law, and so ultimately his actions served to undermine the constitution for which he should have been fighting.
Today, people on either side of the left/right divide argue about when it is necessary to force people at the point of the gun to contribute to the war effort, either through conscription or through taxation. But there is one great American hero from the War of 1812 who was in favor of neither: Jean Laffite.
Jean Laffite did not merely volunteer to fight for America and bring along with him many other volunteers that fought in the Battle of New Orleans. He also supplied artillery, gunpowder and flints without which the battle could not be won.
A real American, one who fights for our liberty, does so at his own expense and not by sacrificing the freedom of others. He obeys the constitution and respects the rights of others to their property and their persons. But he does disregard unconstitutional laws that result in confiscation and conscription. Because if the only way to save the country is to jettison the constitution, what is the point in fighting at all?