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A Mistaken View of Sovereignty

The following was written by John W. Burgess, born in 1844 to Rhode Island parents living in middle Tennessee. Being confirmed nationalist Whigs, his parents raised him to believe the United States government was above the States themselves in political sovereignty. When war came, he committed treason against Tennessee by fleeing to the enemy invaders and waging war against that State.

A Mistaken View of Sovereignty

“Personally, I never had regarded the union under the Constitution of 1787 as a confederation of sovereign States. Even during my boyhood in the South, I had learned from my [Henry] Clay whig father and grandfather to look upon it as a nation holding exclusive sovereignty and exercising government through two sets of organs, each having its own constitutional sphere of action and limitation. I had been taught to consider that this was the advance made in our political system from the [Articles of] Confederation of 1781 to the [Constitution] of 1787.

But I can well remember that this was not the view taken by the vast majority of the people, in rank and file, at the time when I first became cognizant of these questions. The South, by an overwhelming majority, regarded the United States as a confederation of sovereign States; and a very large portion, perhaps a majority, of the people of the North held the like opinion.

The opposition by the New England Federalists to the War of 1812 with England, led by the Federalist [Daniel] Webster, who not only opposed entering upon it, but also opposed to supporting it, and who considered conscription as warranted constitutionally only in resistance to invasion, made the Federalists a State Rights party. One the whole, therefore, the change from Federalism to Republicanism was one which advanced the States Rights doctrine of the Union at the expense of the national doctrine.

[The] slave labor system of the South made it impossible to develop manufacture there and condemned that section to agriculture, chiefly cotton raising, and how the consciousness of this fact by Southern leaders moved them to seek some constitutional principle to defend themselves against the Whig tariff majority. The principle, as Calhoun elaborated it, was nullification, namely, the right of a State to suspend the operation of an act of Congress within its limits until the legislatures of, or conventions in, three-fourths of the States should approve it.

The idea in this doctrine was that the United States government could not determine the extent of its own powers, since that would make its own determinations, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers – in other words, would make it autocratic.”

Despite writing this understanding of the nature of the American political structure, the author wrote of Lincoln’s July 4, 1861, address to a special session of Congress. By this time Lincoln had raised an army and declared war which only Congress can do, he also waged war against States which Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution defines as treason. He additionally had suspended habeas corpus and arrested political adversaries which overawed any political opposition. Lincoln then absurdly claimed that “The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact, created them as States . . . [and that not] one of them ever having been a State out of the Union.”

After Lincoln and his military were victorious in war in 1865, the States were now mere “provinces of a completely centralized government.”

(Reminiscences of an American Scholar, John W. Burgess, Columbia University Press, 1934; pp. 294-297; 306)

 

Washington the Arch-Rebel

Vallandigham (below) had the support of many in the north’s Democratic party such as editor Thomas Beer of Ohio’s Crawford County Forum of 30 January 1863. He wrote: “every dollar spent for the prosecution of this infamous war is uselessly wasted – and every life lost in it is an abominable sacrifice, a murder, the responsibility of which will rest upon Abraham Lincoln and his advisors. Support of this war and hostility to it, show the dividing line between the enemies and friends of the Union. He who supports the war is against the Union.”

Washington the Arch-Rebel

“Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham excoriated Lincoln and his followers on January 14, 1863, in the US House of Representatives by stating: “Yet after nearly two years of more vigorous prosecution of war than ever recorded in history . . . you have utterly, signally, disastrously failed to subjugate ten millions of “rebels”, whom you had taught the people of the North and . . . West not only to hate, but to despise.

Rebels did I say?  Yes, your fathers were rebels, or your grandfathers.  He [Washington] who now before me on canvas looks down so sadly upon us, the false, degenerate and imbecile guardians of the great Republic which he founded, was a rebel.  And yet we, cradled ourselves in rebellion and who have fostered and fraternized with every insurrection in the nineteenth century everywhere throughout the globe, would now . . . make the word “rebel” a reproach.”

(The Limits of Dissent: Clement L. Vallandigham & the Civil War. Frank L. Klement. Fordham University Press, 1998, pg 136)

Lincoln’s New America

Lincoln’s New America

“The Civil War ennobled no one, except perhaps its central figure, but it brought enormous and probably inevitable changes in the north. Those States actually gained wealth, population and power between 1861 and 1865, during the concurrent destruction of the American Confederacy. War manufactures exploded industrial production, made agriculture prosper, and a flood of immigration from Europe more than replaced the blood and bone buried in the South.

Until 1861, the full effect of the Industrial Revolution had been held in check by the powerful agronomists from Virginia to Texas. With this check removed, the industrial States consolidated their gains swiftly.

While the war itself was moving political power irresistibly toward the federal capital in Washington, money power was centralized in New York through the wartime Currency Acts. And an enormous centralization, through economic expansion, was going on [with] Businesses and enterprises formed that soon transcended the States themselves.

The removal of real power to a national capital was the first necessity for an expanded transportation and industrial complex that lay across many States. The concentration of fiscal power in New York broke the monetary freedom of State legislatures. As business enterprise became more and more national and spread on rails, old boundaries were, and had to be, meaningless. All this would, in quick time, forge a new society.

The old American of a huge farming, small holder class with a tiny mercantile and professional elite was not gone; vast islands of it remained. But it was submerged in flooding money and roaring steam.

If the men and interests behind the rise of the new industrial America did not realize fully where they were going, they understood their basic imperatives well enough. They needed certain things from government: high tariffs on industrial products; business subsidies and the diversion of public finances to railroads; centralized money control; continued massive immigration to curb native workers and create a labor pool; and a hard money policy, without which a solid financial-industrial complex was difficult to build.

The political instrument of this new force was the new Republican party . . . [where] refugees from Whiggery found a home. As virtually all foreign observers have seen, the erection of the immense American politico-industrial-financial machine in 1861 was not pure destiny; it took a certain kind of genius.

[But] the new wealth was more monstrously maldistributed than it had ever been. Millions of northern workers were little better off, in grimy tenements and working long, tedious days, than Texas slaves; many, in fact, were cared for worse. Native-born workers, who had enjoyed decades of scarcity and demand, begged for a limit to flooding immigration as they were drowned.  In the 19th century they were hardly sustained by the 20th century illusion that they rose on each succeeding wave.”

(Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. T.R. Fehrenbach. Collier Books, pp. 403-405)

Clarifying 19th Century American History

Americans were certainly “Confederates” before the 1789 constitution was ratified as their governing document were the Articles of Confederation. When ratifying the new 1789 constitution, 11 States decided to “secede” from the Articles and voluntarily “accede” to the new federation; North Carolina and Rhode Island held out for the Bill of Rights before they acceded. In the latter document, Article III, Section 3 fixed treason as only waging war against “Them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” This does raise the question of who waged war against the States forming a more perfect union to the South Below, the author clarifies misconceptions regarding Lincoln’s war.

Clarifying 19th Century American History

“Certainly, there are those of goodwill, and let us call it “invincible ignorance, who have been educated to think the primary issue in 1861 was slavery, and Abraham Lincoln was simply reacting to those “rebels” who wished to destroy “the sacred bonds” of Union, while advancing the great humanitarian cause of “freedom.” So much for the caliber and character of our contemporary educational system, not to mention Hollywood’s ideological tendentious (and mostly successful) attempts to influence us. Yet, that mythology surrounding the Southern Iliad of 1861-1865 will not stand serious cross-examination. Consider these popular myths and shibboleths:

“The War was about slavery!” Not really accurate: the war aims cited repeatedly by Lincoln and northern publicists consistently during the years 1861-1863, even afterwards, were that the war was to “preserve the Union.” Indeed, if the abolition of slavery had been declared a war aim in 1861, most likely a great majority of Union political leaders, not to mention Union soldiers, would have recoiled, and the northern war effort would most likely have collapsed.  It was difficult enough to gain wide support in the north, as it was. Remember, Lincoln was elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in 1860, and barely gained pluralities in most northern States.

“Lincoln freed the slaves.” No so; Lincoln freed not one slave. His proclamation, issued first on September 22, 1862, and formally on January 1, 1863, supposedly “freeing the slaves,” only applied to those areas not under Union military control or occupation, that is, territory of the independent Southern States. Lincoln’s proclamation “freed” slaves where his action had no effect.

And most recently this charge: “Robert E. Lee and other Confederate military leaders who were in the US Army committed treason by violating their oaths to defend the Union, and Confederate leaders were in rebellion against the legitimately elected government of the United States.” Somehow, critics seem to forget to mention that Lee and the other Confederate leaders resigned their commissions in the US Army, and from Congress prior to enlisting in the defense of their home States and in the ranks of the Confederate States army, or assuming positions in the new Confederate government. They did not violate their oaths; their States had formally left the union, and, thus, the claims of the federal government in Washington had ceased to have authority over them.”

(The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage. Boyd D. Cathey. Scuppernong Press, 2018, pp. 60-61)

May 26, 2024 - Aftermath: Despotism, America Transformed, Enemies of the Republic, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Newspapers, Prisons for Americans    Comments Off on Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

By 1863, Congress had sanctioned Lincoln’s illegal suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and absolved him of the northern Democrats charge of “usurpation.” The latter charged that his “suspension of the writ justifies arrests without warrant, without oath, and even without suspicion of treason or other crime.” Howard, below, was editor of Baltimore’s Daily Exchange which was supportive of the South’s decision for political independence.

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

“Frances Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner, had been among the Baltimoreans arrested in September of 1861. By December 1862, he had finished a manuscript about his prison experiences, and the little book made its appearance in print early in 1863.

Like others in this genre of protest writing, Howard’s work made a special point “to show . . . how men, who were guiltless . . ., were treated in this age, and in this country” and stressed the crowded conditions and spartan hardships of prison life.

In a protest letter written to President Lincoln and reprinted in Howard’s book, he and other prisoners of state likened the conditions at Fort Lafayette to those on “a slave ship, on the middle passage.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, p195)

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

In 1863 Republican Senator John Sherman recalled that it was William H. Seward rather than Lincoln who ordered the seizure of Maryland’s legislators in 1861, that “the high-handed proceeding was the work of Mr. Seward, of his own mere motion, without the knowledge of Lincoln.” Seward later told a British official that the arrests had been made to influence coming Maryland elections as well. Frederick (below) was Seward’s son.

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

“The Lincoln administration believed, according to Frederick Seward, that “a disunion majority” in the Maryland State house would pass an ordinance to withdraw from the Union in September 1861. Lincoln had resolved to keep that from happening. Seward recalled: “[The military was] instructed to carefully watch the movements of members of the [Maryland] Legislature . . . Loyal Union members would not be interfered with . . . but “disunion” members would be turned back toward their homes and would not reach Frederick City at all. The views of each member were well-known . . . so there would be little difficulty, as Mr. Lincoln remarked, in “separating the sheep from the goats.”

[Seward continued]: “When the time arrived . . . it was found that not only was no secession ordinance likely to be adopted, but that there seemed to be no Secessionists to present one. The two generals had carried out their instructions faithfully, and with tact and discretion . . . No ordinance was adopted, Baltimore remained quiet, and Maryland stayed in the Union.”

Many arrests of northerners at that time involved freedom of speech and freedom of the press with Seward’s State Department records citing “treasonable language, “Southern sympathizer,” secessionist” and “disloyalty” as standard reasons for arrest and confinement. Additionally, even more serious-sounding arrest reasons were vague and sometimes denoted offensive words rather than deeds: “aiding and abetting the enemy,” threatening Unionists,” or “inducing desertion,” for example. A man in Cincinnati was arrested for selling envelopes and stationery with Confederate mottoes printed on them.

When an old associate of Seward came to Washington to plead for the release of a political prisoner from Kentucky held in Fort Lafayette, the secretary of state readily admitted that no charges were on file against the prisoner. When asked whether he intended to keep citizens imprisoned against whom no charge had been made, Seward apparently answered: “I don’t care a d—n whether they are guilty or innocent. I saved Maryland by similar arrests, and so I mean to hold Kentucky.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, pp. 15-16; 27-30)

Lincoln’s Dark Days

Many European observers saw Lincoln’s early proclamation of September 1862 as simply imitating the actions of Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore eighty-six years earlier. In the face of “insurrection,” Dunmore demanded loyalty oaths from colonists while proclaiming African slaves “free.” A desperate Lincoln did the same.

Lincoln’s Dark Days

“The war had indeed approached a crisis in late July [1861]. There had been little encouraging news from the Western theater since April, when the victory at Shiloh had been followed by the occupation of New Orleans. These victories were disappointing in that they seemed to be leading nowhere. The high hopes accompanying McClellan’s advance up the peninsula below Richmond had been cruelly dashed.

Waiting for victories, [Lincoln’s] Cabinet received news in late August of the most humiliating defeat of the entire war. General John Pope allowed his army to be trapped at Manassas, Virginia, practically on the doorstep of the Capitol, between the armies of Longstreet and Jackson; it was hurled back toward Washington in a retreat that was actually a rout.

When the full impact of this latest disaster was at last known in the North, a real desperation gripped the public. “That we are in serious danger of being whipped cannot be denied” wrote Edward Atkinson, “and there is scarce a man now in Boston, who would not thank God to hear of a serious insurrection among the slaves, such a change has this disaster wrought.”

Dr. Milton Hawks, perhaps the most fanatical missionary at Port Royal [South Carolina], repeated his belief that, unless emancipation were the goal of the war, the South would establish her independence. “The greatest kindness that a man could do this government today,” he wrote furiously, “would be to assassinate Pres. Lincoln – He stands directly in the way.”

Lincoln’s course was mysterious to the general public [but after the dubious victory at Antietam], the President seized the slim occasion for his [preliminary emancipation] Proclamation . . .”

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. Willie Lee Rose. Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 184-185)

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

A review of the martial law imposed upon the island of Key West 1861-1865 was recently presented by a local college history teacher, and as a part of the North’s comprehensive military strategy during the Civil War. The audience was a local Civil War Roundtable (CWRT) group.

The lecturer noted the military takeover of the civilian government on the island in mid-January 1861 as the local commander, Capt. James Brannan surreptitiously barricaded his 44 men in the nearly completed Fort Zachary Taylor and turned its guns on the town. Overnight, the US military’s local friends and neighbors became an enemy to be treated with suspicion and contempt. Now fearing bombardment of their homes from the nearby fort, the residents became prisoners in their homes.

The reason cited for Brannan’s warlike action was overhearing “secession” talk among the residents as well as Florida’s recent decision to formally withdraw from the United States federation and become an independent State. Florida was to remain independent until it formally voted to join the Confederate States of America on April 22, 1861.

The arrival in March 1861 of more Northern troops increased armed patrols roaming the town and surveilling citizens. Arbitrary arrests were common, and Fort Taylor became an American bastille to hold prisoners of conscience. Locals, especially merchants with inventories to sell, sought favor with the military as willing informants, reporting on anyone complaining of military rule. Elected officials who disagreed with the military faced arrest and confinement, and new elections of approved candidates were held under armed supervision. Those considered “dangerous secessionists” were deported to the mainland.

What Capt. Brannan accomplished with his unilateral action, and unfortunately not pointed out by the lecturer, was to wage war against a State which is the very definition of treason in the US Constitution – Article III, Section 3. Though Brannan was applauded by his fellow officers and eventually promoted for his act, this does not absolve him of treason.

It was highly likely that Brannan was emulating Major Robert Anderson at Charleston as news of the Fort Sumter seizure could have reached him at Key West in early January. As Anderson suffered no adverse consequences for his fort seizure, Brannan perhaps saw a green light to do the same but should have been more circumspect as he certainly was aware that John Brown was hung in 1858 for waging war against Virginia – the crime being treason. Noteworthy is that Brown was tried and convicted in Virginia, where he committed his crime.

Though this speaker outlined how the island was placed under military rule, no adequate or honest discussion was provided regarding how or why military rule had suddenly materialized, how it was justified under American law, or who specifically ordered it. Martial law is generally considered to be the absence of law with arrests and detentions made at the discretion of the military commander, or those commanded by him. Missing was any explanation of how easily Northern commanders could ignore habeas corpus which was so deeply rooted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. But importantly, as Lincoln ignored the Constitution and approved the repressive actions of those like Brannan, it only encouraged more violations of the law.

The seizure of Fort Taylor came at the whim of a local military commander who was sworn to uphold the United States Constitution – and who should have clearly understood the definition of treason. Though simplistically following orders to protect the fort he was charged with commanding, the withdrawal of the State of Florida and its relationship with the United States government at Washington took precedence. After being officially advised of Florida’s decision to formally declare independence, and lacking any reason to remain on the island, which was no longer part of the United States, Capt. Brannan should have sought Florida officials to provide him with receipts for all equipment left behind before departing with his command. Though he likely would have been court-martialed for doing this, he would have been true to his oath to support the United States Constitution.

The above indicates that there is more than one viewpoint regarding this particular topic, and a more well-versed history teacher should have been able to present all credible perspectives beyond their own. In this particular case, the audience deserved a far better explanation of how military rule quickly overwhelmed a peaceful American town. The listeners were unfortunately left with a partial and limited view of this important and most revealing topic.

(For more information on this topic, see: “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam – Shotwell Publishing and available on Amazon)

Aggressive Abroad, Despotic at Home

On December 15, 1866, Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote Britain’s Lord Acton that he believed the victorious North’s consolidation of all the American States into “one vast republic . . . will be the certain precursor to ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.” Lee. Like many others, saw the authority reserved to the States and the people, now destroyed by the war, had been “the only safeguard to the continuance of free government.”

Below, author Gore Vidal wrote in 2002 of the national security state’s creation by Harry Truman, though it was certainly put into motion first by Lincoln, reinforced by Woodrow Wilson and perfected by Roosevelt the Second. Unfortunately, Vidal’s research does not reveal the military-industrial, security state apparatus created by Lincoln.

Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home

“Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, and a handful of congressional leaders.

Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg told Truman he could have his militarized economy only if he first “scared the hell out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged.

The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congresses and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media.

Now with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally whenever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues. We complain of terrorism, yet our empire is now the greatest terrorist of all. We bomb, invade, subvert other states.

We have allowed our institutions to be taken over in the name of a globalized American empire that is totally alien in concept to anything our Founders had in mind.”

(Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to be So Hated. Gore Vidal. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002, pp. 158-159)

Lincoln’s Tariff War

Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, promised no interference with the South’s labor system and admitted that a president lacked the authority to do so. But he did threaten to invade any State that failed to collect federal tariff revenues – despite the US Constitution’s Article III, Section 3, declaring treason to be waging war against one of “Them”, the States, or adhering to their enemy, giving them aid and comfort.

Lincoln’s Tariff War

“Once the Republicans were confident that Lincoln would win the 1860 election, and especially once the Southern Democrats began leaving the U.S. Congress, they did what they had been dreaming of doing for decades: They went on a protectionist frenzy that lasted for decades after the war.

The Morrill Tariff was passed by the House of Representatives in May 1860 and by the Senate in March 1861, just prior to Lincoln’s inauguration. Thus, the apparatus of protectionism was initiated before Fort Sumter and before the war. The Morrill Tariff was not passed to finance the war; it was passed because the old-line Whigs, who were now Republicans [including Lincoln], finally had the power to do it.

Even though it was passed before Lincoln officially took office, it is important to note that, as the Republicans’ presidential candidate, he was the leader of the party and, as such, most likely had a great deal to do with the political maneuvering on behalf of the tariff.

[In his classic 1931 book, “The Tariff History of the United States”] Frank Taussig explains that “in the next regular [congressional] session, in December 1861, a still further increase of [tariff] duties was made. From that time until 1865, no session, indeed, hardly a month of any session, passed in which some increase in of duties on imports were not made.” By 1862, the average tariff rate had crept up to 47.06 percent which “established protective duties [for Northern industries] more extreme than had been ventured on in any previous tariff act in our country’s history.”

The Republicans openly admitted that the purpose of their protectionist policy was not necessarily to raise money to finance the war but to pay off Northern manufacturers for their political support. The manufacturers were being taxed explicitly (through excise taxes) to help finance the war, and the tariff was a way to offset those losses.  Congress enacted and Lincoln signed into law tariff legislation “whose chief effect was to bring money into the pockets of private individuals.”

Long after the war, Taussig concluded, “almost every increase in duties demanded by domestic producers was readily made” and “great forces were made by changes in legislation urged and brought about by those who were benefited by them.”

(Abraham Lincon and the Triumph of Mercantilism, Thomas J. DiLorenzo. Reassessing the Presidency. John V. Denson, ed., Mises Institute Press, 2001, pp. 220-221)

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