After being released from prison for his role in the Confederate government, and having ample time to reflect on what the recent war against the South had accomplished politically in the United States, Stephen Mallory confided his thoughts to son Buddy. He wrote that the one hope for American liberties would be through President Andrew Johnson’s efforts to readmit Southern States to Congress as a “check on radicalism in every form” as the people of the South were naturally conservative. They would “conserve the basic rights off Americans as against all despotic tendencies of the central government.
No Longer the Creature of the States
“He confided to his son his somber estimate of the meaning and effects of the war which had just concluded. Before the recent struggle, he declared, Americans had gloried in the possession of such inalienable and indestructible rights as “individual liberty,” freedom of the press,” and the “consent of the governed.”
The war had, at least as far as the Southern States were concerned, abolished the exercise of those rights. The Southern States were being treated as conquered provinces under military law. The whole people of the South were at the uncontrolled command of the executive.
This showed “how rapidly men drift when once they grasp irresponsible power.” The character of all power in government is aggressive, he said, with a constant tendency to augment itself; the history of our government provided no exception to this rule.
During the war the federal government had violated flagrantly the basic liberties of the people of the North, and now it was suppressing with even greater violence the rights of the citizens of the South.
“It is impossible that such a course of events should not radically change the theory, the practice and the whole character of the Government, which will no longer be regarded as a Confederation of willing, sovereign States, — no longer be thought of as the creature or agent of the independent States, existing by their will, authority, and consent, but as a national, supreme government, existing by its own right, with right and power as well against the States, all or one, as against individuals or foreign nations, to maintain itself, and to enforce obedience to its authority.”
(Stephen R. Mallory: Confederate Navy Chief, Joseph T. Durkin, University of North Carolina Press, 1954, excerpts pp. 368-369)