Browsing "Southern Conservatives"

Graceful Aims of Southern Scholarship

Scholars like Richard Weaver are known for influencing “the revival of philosophical conservatism in the American academy as well as deepening and enriching Southern studies and the discipline of rhetoric.”  The agrarian South traditionally was close to the soil while the North was immersing itself in commercialism and the false god of science, a reality persisting to this day.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Graceful Aims of Southern Scholarship

“Wishing to be complimentary, a forthright city editor of a Manhattan newspaper once proclaimed that young men from the South make excellent reporters provided they can rid themselves of malaria and gentility. This characterization may be accepted as a fair statement of the reputation of Southerners abroad in the land. By malaria the city editor meant not so much the pathological state induced by the mosquito’s sting, as that dreamy and miasmic attitude of mind usually associated with the disease.

And by gentility the editor intended to imply a false assumption of gentlemanly graces and immunities, especially an immunity from a conscience which holds steady work to be a duty. From his own point of view the Manhattan journalist of course spoke with accuracy.

But from the point of view of the indigenous Southerner he was altogether wrong. For the terrestrial aims of the Southerner are not the same as those of the New Yorker or New Englander. To be properly appreciated for his native qualities, the honest Southern person should stay at home.

When I went North to college, a dean, after learning the region of my nativity, asked in a tone of slight facetiousness what I considered the aim of Southern scholarship. Did I also think Southern scholars had to do nothing but sit pleasantly on a vine-covered back porch and drink lemonade?

I shall always feel that one of the tragic failures of my experience was that I did not, to our common astonishment, say, “Yes – provided the scholarly conversation is graceful, well-mannered, and leisurely enough.”

(Culture in the South, Middle Class and Bourbon, Clarence Cason, UNC Press, 1934, pp. 478-481)

 

The South Falls Heir to Northern Problems

The South after 1865 was not only an economic colony for Northern interests, but it would also fell prey to the multitude of vices associated with a relentless pursuit of profit. What was earlier termed “the Southern Yankee” became more common as the drive to emulate the industrialized and profit-obsessed North overwhelmed the Southern people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Falls Heir to Northern Problems

“During the decade of the [nineteen] twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)

 

States Rights' Cornerstone of the Republic

Barry Goldwater criticized both Eisenhower and Nixon for claiming to be conservatives on economic issues but liberals when it comes to human problems. Goldwater believed that man “cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient,  if he is enslaved politically; conversely, a man’s political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the state.” As the Founders’ believed, the State’s were the bulwark against an oppressive federal government in the hands of political opportunists.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

States’ Rights Cornerstone of the Republic

“The Governor of New York, in 1930, pointed out that the Constitution does not empower the Congress to deal with “a great number of vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of business, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and a dozen other important features.” And he added that “Washington must not be encouraged to interfere” in those areas.

Franklin Roosevelt’s rapid conversion from Constitutionalism to the doctrine of unlimited government is an oft-told story. But I am here concerned not so much by the abandonment of States’ Rights by the national Democratic Party – an event that occurred some years ago when the party was captured by the Socialist ideologues in and about the labor movement – as by the unmistakable tendency of the Republican Party to adopt the same course.

The result is that today neither of our two parties maintains a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of the Republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by Big Government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism. The Republican Party, to be sure, gives lip service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers”; the Administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-State conference on the problem.

But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily. Let us focus attention on one method of federal interference — one that tends to be neglected in much of the public discussion of the problem. In recent years, the federal government has continued, and in many cases, has increased, federal “grants-in-aid” to the States in a number of areas in which the Constitution recognizes the exclusive jurisdiction of the States.

These grants are called “matching funds” and are designed to “stimulate” State spending in health, education, welfare, conservation, or any other area in which the federal government decides there is a need for national action. If the States agree to put up money for these purposes, the federal government undertakes to match the appropriation according to a ratio prescribed by Congress. Sometimes the ratio is fifty-fifty; often the federal government contributes over half the cost. There are two things to note about these programs. The first is that they are federal programs – they are conceived by the federal government both as to purpose and as to extent.

The second is that the “simulative” grants are, in effect, a mixture of blackmail and bribery. The States are told to go along with the program “or else.” Once the federal government has offered matching funds, it is unlikely, as a practical matter, that a member of a State Legislature will turn down his State’s fair share of revenue collected from all of the State. Understandably, many legislators feel that to refuse aid would be political suicide. This is an indirect form of coercion, but it is effective nonetheless.

A more direct method of coercion is for the federal government to threaten to move in unless State governments take action that Washington deems appropriate. Not so long ago, for example, the Secretary of Labor gave the States a lecture on the wisdom of enacting “up-to-date” unemployment compensation laws. He made no effort to disguise the alternative: if the States failed to act, the federal government would. Here are some examples of the “simulative” approach. Late in 1957 a “Joint Federal-State Action Committee” recommended that certain matching funds be “returned” to the States on the scarcely disguised grounds that the States, in the view of the Committee, had learned to live up to their responsibilities.

These are the areas in which the States were learning to behave: “vocational education” programs in agriculture, home economics, practical nursing, and the fisheries trade; local sewage projects; slum clearance and urban renewal; and enforcement of health and safety standards in connection with the atomic energy program. Now the point is not that Congress failed to act on these recommendations, or that the Administration gave them only half-hearted support; but rather that the federal government had no business entering these fields in the first place, and thus had no business taking upon itself the prerogative of judging the States’ performance.

The Republican Party should have said this plainly and forthrightly and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the federal government. We can best understand our error, I think, by examining the theory behind it. I have already alluded to the book, “A Republican Looks at His Party,” which is an elaborate rationalization of the “Modern Republican” approach to current problems. (It does the job just as well, I might add, for the Democrats’ approach.)

Mr. Larson devotes a good deal of space to the question of States’ Rights, thanks to the Tenth Amendment, this presumption must give way whenever it appears to the federal authorities that the States are not responding satisfactorily to “the needs of the people.’ This is a paraphrase of his position, but not, I think, an unjust one. And if this approach appears to be a high handed way of dealing with an explicit constitutional provision,

Mr. Larson justifies the argument by summoning the concept that “for every right there is a corresponding duty.” “When we speak of States’ Rights,” he writes, “we should never forget to add that there go with those rights the corresponding States’ responsibilities.” Therefore, he concluded, if the States fail to do their duty, they have only themselves to blame when the federal government intervenes.

The trouble with this argument is that it treats the Constitution of the United States as a kind of handbook in political theory, to be heeded or ignored depending on how it fits the plans of contemporary federal officials. The Tenth Amendment is not “a general assumption, ” but a prohibitory rule of law. The Tenth Amendment recognizes the States’ jurisdiction in certain areas. State’ Rights means that the States have a right to act or not to act, as they see fit, in the areas reserved to them.

The States may have duties corresponding to these rights, but the duties are owed to the people of the States, not to the federal government. Therefore, the recourse lies not with the federal government, which is not sovereign, but with the people who are, and who have full power to take disciplinary action. If the people are unhappy with say, their States’ disability insurance program, they can bring pressure to bear on their State officials and, if that fails, they can elect a new set of officials.

And if, in the unhappy event they should wish to divest themselves of this responsibility, they can amend the Constitution. The Constitution, I repeat, draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that the line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government. But again, I caution against a defensive, or apologetic, appeal to the Constitution. There is a reason for its reservation of States’ Rights.

Not only does it prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. Who knows better than New Yorkers how much and what kind of publicity-financed slum clearance in New York City is needed and can be afforded? Who knows better than Nebraskans whether that State has an adequate nursing program? Who knows better than Arizonans the kind of school program that is needed to educate their children? The people of my own State – and I am confident that I speak for the majority of them — have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes “free.”

They know that the money comes out of their own pockets, and is returned to them minus a broker’s fee taken by the federal bureaucracy. They know, too, that the power to decide how that money shall be spent is withdrawn from them and exercised by some planning board deep in the caverns of one of the federal agencies. They understand this represents a great and perhaps irreparable loss — not only in their wealth, but also in their priceless liberty. Nothing could so far advance the cause of freedom as for State officials throughout the land to assert their rightful claims to lost State power; and for the federal government to withdraw promptly and totally from every jurisdiction which the Constitution reserves to the States.”

(The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater, Victor Publishing Company, 1960, pp. 24-30))

 

Barry Goldwater Amid Rebel Flags

One of the most significant developments of the 1964 presidential election was the virtually solid anti-conservative Republican stand of black voters across the South, which resulted in the defeat of Barry Goldwater. In 1968, the GOP ended their brief friendship with white conservative Southerners and actively pursued black voters with civil rights promises and programs.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Barry Goldwater Amid Rebel Flags

“When Senator Barry Goldwater brought his Presidential campaign to east Tennessee in September, 1964, he spoke from the Knoxville-Maryville airport, in the solid Republican county of Blount. It is Parson Brownlow’s home country; at a rural cemetery a few miles away a headstone proclaims the death of a local patriot, “murdered by Confederates.”

When Senator Goldwater spoke, however, the Confederates were out in much greater force than one hundred years before. A large Confederate flag dominated the platform, and smaller Rebel pennants were waved throughout the crowd.

Here was a candidate who spoke of States’ rights . . . The first signs [of Southerners sensing they had allies] became evident when there was outspoken opposition to the Kennedy-Johnson civil rights law in other sections of the country besides the South. Governor George Wallace of Alabama made impressive showings in Democratic presidential primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland. Stirred by the scent of victory, the Mississippi legislature financed a national lobby against the bill.

Racial violence flared in a dozen points in the North and reached the riot stage in [New York’s] Harlem. At the San Francisco convention all the South watched as the forces of Senator Goldwater, who had voted against the civil rights law, turned aside disorganized elements which attempted vainly to moderate the Republican platform.

The final Goldwater campaign effort was a television spectacular beamed over the old Confederacy from Columbia, South Carolina. Fabled movie stars from California came to join old-line Southern politicians being retreaded as Republicans. Across the old Dixiecrat belt the elixir worked.

Georgia was added to Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Mississippians who had voted 90 percent for Strom Thurmond in 1948, now voted with him 87 percent as Goldwater Republicans.

Mississippi gave Goldwater a larger percentage of its vote than any of the 44 States carried by Johnson gave the President, but even majorities like this failed to give the Republicans the majority of the popular vote in the South as a whole. The electoral vote, of course, went two to one for Johnson.

Negro votes made the difference between Johnson and Goldwater in Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, and possibly North Carolina. They also supplied the winning margin in several House and Senate contests in these same States. For the first time, Democrats in these areas are fully realizing the advantage of such an asset, and the local Republicans who deliberately set their course against soliciting Negro support now recognize the nature of the price they paid to prove themselves better [States’ rights advocates] than the Dixiecrats.

(Look Away From Dixie, Frank E. Smith, LSU Press, 1965, pp. 71-74)

Barden's Conservative Approach to Education

Conservative Southern Democrat Graham A. Barden of North Carolina was skeptical of President Eisenhower’s plan to revamp American education after the launch of Russia’s Sputnik spacecraft. Barden said on February 21, 1958 that “Somebody around [Eisenhower] apparently is of the opinion that all you have to do is drop a few million dollars into a slot machine, run around behind and catch some scientists as they fall out. That is not [only] oversimplifying the situation but foolish.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Barden’s Conservative Approach to Education

“[Barden[ stated, “I think that the Russian Sputnik flew too low over Washington and bumped some heads. Suddenly they said the American education system was no good. The trouble was everyone wanted quick [education] legislation.” The quick legislation to which Barden referred was specifically HR 13247, just reported out of his own committee. “That bill covers just everything,” he noted. “It’s like taking a man with some minor ailments and putting him through major emergency surgery . . . surgery that may kill him.”

And the congressman added, “The bill’s scholarship provision will mix politics with education, something we just don’t want to do.” When asked by an interviewer what politics would be involved in a Federal scholarship program, Barden replied: “When you give, say, five scholarships to a county, the man running for office next time will offer the people ten.”

[A letter to friend Herbert Herring at Duke University] contained a most concise statement of his political and educational philosophy:

“. . . I am totally out of patience with the so-called cash scholarship proposition, for I am definitely of the opinion that it will not work, it will do more damage than good, and once adopted will never be abandoned because of the politics involved. To me, if a student does not have the real desire for an education and is not willing to make a sacrifice for it, whether it be necessary or not, he is in my opinion a bad risk. I am thoroughly fed up with a large part of the press of this country that persists in extolling the virtues of the Russian system, while at the same time they denounce, criticize, and abuse our own educational system.

I sometimes wonder if those who are so persistent in the views concerning the Russian educational system are not really trying to lay the foundation for the adoption of not only a part of their educational system, but much of their economic system as well.”

[Barden] earnestly believed that once started, a system of federalized scholarships would never be terminated. The cost, in his opinion, would run into billions, and independent or State-supported institutions would become completely subservient to the bureaucracy in Washington which he predicted would quickly establish its self-perpetuating existence.”

(Graham A. Barden, Conservative Carolina Congressman, Elmer L. Puryear, Campbell University Press, 1979, pp. 129-130)

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

Author Margaret L. Coit has written that “The Old South was a school for statesmanship” and that Southern men “rode high in the saddle of the USA” from the 1776 Revolution to the 1861 Revolution. It is no exaggeration that the “Virginia Dynasty” was virtually synonymous with the founding of the American experiment, and with the exception of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, nearly every outstanding American political figure was a Southern man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page, “was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.” Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves “proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters, twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old World traditions in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece, Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women tender, pure and true . . . It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”

(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)

 

The South the Genesis of American Independence

In 1887 North Carolina’s Lieutenant-General Daniel H. Hill spoke of the American Republic and the men who founded, led and sustained it until a revolutionary movement ended its life after some eighty years. Shorn of the conservative South after 1861, the Northern government descended into political corruption, the Gilded Age, incessant warfare and moral depravity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South the Genesis of American Independence

“With rare magnanimity, Southern congressmen had voted for protective tariffs, fishing bounties, and coast-trade regulations, which did so much to build up the big cities and great commerce of the North and to fill its coffers to overflowing. Even Mr. Calhoun had voted to protect “infant industries,” believing that the infants would in the course of time learn to crawl and walk, and do without pap. But that time has not yet come.

Thomas Prentice Kettell, a Northern man, estimates that in these three ways the Old South contributed from 1789 to 1861, $2,770,000,000 of her wealth to Northern profits. Our statesmen knew, surely, that their own section would never get one dollar in return from this enormous expenditure. But they were patriotic enough to be willing to make the nation rich and prosperous, even at the expense, for a season, of their own beloved South.

My countrymen! That Old South was a generous Old South. The world scoffs at generosity and says, “it don’t pay.”  The Old South believed with a wise man that “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and loving favor rather than gold and silver.”

Mr. Bancroft [in his History of the United States] says: “American Independence, like the great rivers of the country, had many sources, but the head spring which colored all the stream was the [British] Navigation Act.”

The whole of New England was in a blaze of fury because of it. The effect of upon their commerce and shipping interest was disastrous, and they believed that ruin impended over them. The Old South denounced the Navigation Act, which did not hurt its interest at all, just as severely as it did the Stamp and Revenue Acts. All were blows at the inalienable rights of freemen, and all were alike opposed.

Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, in a speech delivered in Charleston in 1766, advocated the independence of the Colonies, and he was the first American to proclaim the thought. The first American Congress met in Philadelphia on the 7th of October, 21774. Peyton Randolph of Virginia, was elected President of that body.

On the 20th of May, 1775, the Scotch-Irish of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, absolved all allegiance with the Crown of Great Britain, and set up a government of its own. On the 12th of April, 1776, the Provincial Congress of North Carolina took the lead of all the States in passing resolutions of independence. On the 7th of June of that year, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia moved, “These united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”

It was upon this motion that the separation from Great Britain took place. It was a Virginian who wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was a Virginian who led the rebel armies to victory and to freedom. It was a Southerner — Charles Pinckney of South Carolina — whose draft of the Constitution was mainly adopted.

Thus independence was declared on the motion of one Southerner; its principles were set forth in the Declaration by another Southerner. A third led the armies of the rebel colonies to victory, while a fourth framed the Constitution, which though denounced at one time by the South-haters as “a covenant with death and a league with hell,” has lived for one hundred years, and is likely to live for hundreds more.

You . . . need not be ashamed of your ancestors and blush that they lived in the Old Bourbon South. That Bourbon regime lasted for eighty years, the grandest and noblest of American history. Eleven of its seventeen Presidents were of Southern birth. Fifty-seven of the eighty years were spent under the administration of Southern-born Presidents. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, each served eight years, in all forty years — just one half the life of the nation.

Of the six Northern Presidents John Quincy Adams was elected by the House of Representatives and not by the people, and contrary to the wishes of the people. Nor was Mr. Fillmore elected to the Presidency, but on the death of General Taylor succeeded to the office . . . So during the existence of the Old South, John Adams, Van Buren, Pierce and Buchanan were the only Northern Presidents elected by the people. Another curious fact is, that every Northern President had associated with him as Vice President a man from the Old South.

[The Cape Fear Stamp Act resistance in 1765] was nearly ten years [before] the Boston tea party assembled, when a number of citizens, disguised as Indians, went on board a ship and threw overboard the tea imported in her. This was done in the night by men in disguise, and was directed against a defenseless ship. But the North Carolina movement, ten years earlier [in Wilmington], occurred in open day, and was made against the Governor [Tryon] himself, ensconced in his palace, and by men who scorned disguise” (Senator Clingman).

Every schoolboy knows of the Boston tea-party of 1773; how many of my intelligent audience know of the Wilmington party of 1765?  Yea, verily, the Old South has sorely needed historians of its own.”

(Address by Lt. General D.H. Hill on Memorial Day, June 6th, 1887 at Baltimore, before the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States)

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

On February 19, 1847, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that “the day that the [political] equilibrium between the two sections of the country . . . is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.” On the next day he said: “We know what we are about, we foresee what is coming, and move with no other purpose but to protect our portion of the Union from the greatest of calamities . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

“But while [territorial acquisition, immigration and political representation] measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character, by concentrating all the power of the system in itself.

[It] would not be difficult to show that the process commenced at an early period of the government, and that it proceeded, almost without interruption, step by step, until it absorbed virtually its entire powers . . . That the government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by any one conversant with the political history of the country.

That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain whatever power it claims, against all opposition, is equally certain. Indeed, it is apparent, from what we daily hear, that this has become the prevailing and fixed opinion of a great majority of the community. Now, I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights?

And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States maintain and protect the powers reserved to them by the Constitution, or the people of the several States maintain those which are reserved to them, and, among others, the sovereign powers by which they ordained and established not only their separate State Constitutions and governments, but also the Constitution and government of the United States?

But, if they have no constitutional means of maintaining them against the right claimed by this government, it necessarily follows that they hold them at its pleasure and discretion, and that all the powers of the system are in reality concentrated in it. It also follows that the character of the government has been changed in consequence from a federal republic, as it originally came from the hands of the framers, into a great national consolidated democracy.

It has indeed, at present, all the characteristics of the latter, and not one of the former, although it still retains its outward form.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 178-179)

A More Perfect Union Formed in 1861

A More Perfect Union Formed in 1861

“The congress of delegates from the seceding States convened at Montgomery, Alabama, according to appointment, on February 4, 1861. Their first work was to prepare a provisional constitution for the new confederacy, to be formed of the States which had withdrawn from the Union, for which the style “Confederate States of America” was adopted.

The constitution was adopted on February 8, to continue if force for one year, unless superseded at an earlier date by a permanent organization. On the next day [February 9] an election was held for the chief executive offices, resulting, as I afterward learned, in my election to the Presidency, with the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia as Vice President.

President Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Address [excerpt]:

“Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the United States, and which has been solemnly affirmed and reaffirmed in the Bill of Rights of the States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognizes in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government.

Thus the sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained; so that the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through which they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.

We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of government. The Constitution framed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States. In their exposition of it, and in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning. Reverently let us invoke the God of our Fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by his blessing they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, DaCapo, 1990, pp. 197-203)

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

Former Vice President John C. Breckinridge sat in the US Senate as a representative of Kentucky in July 1861. He denounced Lincoln’s concentration of power in Washington as an act “which, in every age of the world, has been the very definition of despotism.” He also saw the Republican party using the war to change the very character of our government, and the reduction of the resisting State’s into territories governed by Lincoln’s appointees.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

“On September 18 [1861], the Kentucky legislature formally ended neutrality and took the side of the Union. The arrests began the same night, and among the first to be taken was former Governor [Charles] Morehead of Louisville. At the same time, the pro-Southern Louisville Courier was suppressed. That same day several men throughout the nation advised Washington authorities that Breckinridge should be arrested.

The Republican Cassius Clay, who believed that “John C. Breckinridge . . . was never at heart a Secessionist.” Even a bearded little Union general, U.S. Grant, sympathized with the senator in some degree. “He was among the last to go over to the South,” Grant would say, “and was rather dragged into the position.”

He had fought for compromise and failed; he had sought peace and moderation and found only bitterness; and had proclaimed his devotion to the Union to the best of his ability . . . He was an innocent man, but he would be taken, denied his rights, and like Morehead, spirited away to a prison deep in the North to sit for months without hope.

On October 8, 1861, from Bowling Green, he issued his last address as a statesman, and his first as a Confederate. He returned the trust given him to represent Kentucky in the Senate, he said. He could no longer keep it. He had tried to stand for the State’s wishes in Washington, he had opposed Lincoln’s war policy at every step, even to refusing Kentucky’s men and money . . . ”I resign,” he said, “because there is no place left where a Southern Senator may sit in council with the Senators of the North. In truth, there is no longer a Senate of the United States within the meaning and spirit of the Constitution.”

The Union no longer existed, he continued, Lincoln had assumed dictatorial powers. The rights of person and property were being flagrantly violated every day. Unlawful arrests were the rule. The subjugation and conquest of the South were the rallying cries in the Federal Congress.

As for Kentucky, her rights of neutrality had been violated repeatedly, arms secretly supplied to Federal sympathizers, troops unlawfully raised within her borders, the legislature intimidated and packed with the minions of Washington, freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, restricted, and hundreds forced to flee their homes for safety. He explained his own flight to avoid arrest, saying he would have welcomed it if he had any assurance that it would have been followed by a trial of judge and jury, but he knew that would not be.

Would Kentucky stand by while all of this went on? Would she consent to the usurpations of Lincoln and his hirelings; would she suffer her children to be imprisoned and exiled by the “German mercenaries” that the Union was enlisting to fights its war? Never, he said.

Whatever might be the future relations of the two nations, the old Union could never again be reunited as it once was. He wanted peace between the them lest one conquer the other and the result be military despotism. To defend his own birthright and that of his fellow Kentuckians who had been denied the protection due them, and were forced to choose between arrest, exile, or resistance, he now exchanged the “with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” As one of those forced to make that choice, he said, “I intend to resist.”

(Breckinridge, Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis, LSU Press, 1974, pp. 287- 290)