Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote in the immediate postwar that “Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities,” that “they naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong” and become majorities “that their principles and their virtues are really tested.” He was referring to New England which when in the minority was firmly for States’ rights, but in 1860 when it became the majority, became strongly nationalist and embarked on a path to subjugate the South.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
New England Rebels and Tyrants
“The American Constitution died of a disease that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests.
Monarchical governments may accomplish this since they are founded by force, but republican governments never. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they started to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.
If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof that those States had become tired of the republican form and desired to change it.
So loth was the South to abandon the Union that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been made president in 1860. In this election that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn . . . There had at last arisen a united North, against a untied South.
[Lincoln’s election] was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States with the Northern States, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction which had so recently triumphed in the election of their president, was arrayed in hostility to the South, and could not be moved [to compromise] an inch. Rebels, when in a minority, [New Englanders] had become tyrants now that they were in a majority.
Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gauntlet which had been thrown at her feet. The federal government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but . . . this question was a mere means, to an end.
[That] end was empire . . . in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of the more powerful nation crushing out the weaker.
The war between the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which have occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general.
History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them had torn up paper governments, when the paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them.”
(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, 1868, LSU Press, 1996, excerpts, pp. 53-70)