Lincoln’s Triumph over the States
Contrary to the following passage, there was no “constitutional riddle of the American federal system” to be discovered as it was crystal clear in the document, but certainly the Founders’ constitution was powerless against designing men and a lack of virtuous citizens. The Founders’ created no nation – but a federated system of sovereign States which had delegated specific powers for a federal agent to exercise, and strictly forbidding any others. The years 1789 through 1860 were filled with steady encroachments and usurpations by the federal agent of the States.
Observing and experiencing the faults of that constitution, the Southern Founders’ altered the former document to better serve those it was intended to govern and protect, with more chains and locks affixed to the agent.
As President Jefferson Davis departed Richmond in 1865 with federal armies at the gates, he mused: “The principle for which we contended is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.” (Lost Cause, Pollard, pg. 749)
Lincoln’s Triumph over the States
“The election of 1864 demonstrated, conclusively and finally, that Abraham Lincoln had made a nation. At the same moment on the battlefields of the Civil War the constitutional riddle of the American federal system was being resolved. Within a few months of the election Grant and Lee met at Appomattox Courthouse, and the Southern Confederacy – which had been founded upon the dogma of States’ rights, collapsed. But in the North, Abraham Lincoln had already determined that the nation was supreme and States’ rights outmoded in theory and practice.
Under Lincoln’s leadership the national government had won military control over the manpower of the States. A national economic system based on national banks, the nation-made financial centers, government-subsidized railroads, and a protective tariff had grown strong during the war. And, of necessity, State politics revolved in the national orbit.
In 1860, the [United States] had been on the eve of dissolution. In that year the Republican party, which Abraham Lincoln was to make into a new nationalizing agency, had only a nominal existence. In 1860 the Republican platform had solemnly declared that “the Rights of the States . . . must and shall be preserved,” and had added: “the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment . . .”
Within four years the exigencies of the Civil War had made a mockery of these platform phrases. The governors of the [Northern] States had elected Lincoln and had demanded war upon the States of the South. The governors had failed to raise men for the armies by their unaided efforts, and they had failed to keep political control of their States.
As the governors’ influence declined, Lincoln’s grew. By suspending the writ of habeas corpus, by conscription, and by the use of troops at the polls, Lincoln had saved the Republican party and had made it an instrument to save the Union.
Yet all of this merely confirmed the facts that Lincoln had triumphed over the governors, and the nation had emerged victorious over the States.”
(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knoph, 1955, excerpt pp. 385-386; 389)