Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

War for a Certain Interpretation

“We talk of peace and learning,” said Ruskin once in addressing the cadets of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, “and of peace and plenty, and of peace and civilization, but I found that those were not the words which the muse of history coupled together, that on her lips the words were peace and corruption, peace and death.” Hence this man of peace glorified war after no doubt a very cursory examination of the muse of history.”

 War for a Certain Interpretation

“The surrender of the armies of Lee and Johnston brought the struggle to an end. The South was crushed . . . “the ground of Virginia had been kneaded with human flesh; its monuments of carnage, its spectacles of desolation, it’s altars of sacrifice stood from the wheat fields of Pennsylvania to the vales of New Mexico.” More than a billion dollars of property in the South had been literally destroyed by the conflict.

The palpable tragedy of violent death had befallen the family circles of the South’s patriotic not merely twice as frequently as in times of peace, or three times as frequently, or even ten times, but a hundred times as frequently. Within the space of four years was crowded the sorrow of a century. Mourning for more than 250,000 dead on battlefield or on the sea or in military hospitals was the ghastly heritage of the war for the South’s faithful who survived. The majority of the dead were mere boys.

Many strong men wept like children when they turned forever from the struggle. As in rags they journeyed homeward toward their veiled and stricken women they passed wearily among the flowers and the tender grasses of the spring. The panoply of nature spread serenely over the shallow trenches where lay the bones of unnumbered dead – sons, fathers, brothers and one-time enemies of the living who passed.

War is at best a barbarous business. Among civilized men wars are waged avowedly to obtain a better and more honorable peace. How often the avowed objects are the true objects is open to question. Avowedly the American Civil War was waged that a certain interpretation of the federal Constitution might triumph.

To bring about such a triumph of interpretation atrocities were committed in the name of right, invading armies ravaged the land, the slave was encouraged to rise against his master, and he was declared to be free.

“The end of the State is therefore peace,” concluded Plato in his Laws – “the peace of harmony.” The gentle and reasonable man of today has not progressed much beyond this concept. “War is eternal,” wrote Plato “in man and the State.”

The American Civil war strangled the Confederacy and gave rebirth to the United States. It brought forth a whole brood of devils and also revealed many a worthy hero to both sections. Seen through the twilight of the receding past a war is apt to take on a character different from the grisly truth.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William Watson Davis, Columbia, 1913, pp. 319-322)

The Pursuit of Liberty

“Daniel Webster has said, and very justly as far as these United States are concerned: “The sovereignty of government is an idea belonging to the other side of the Atlantic. No such thing is known in North America. Our governments are limited. But with us all power is with the people. They alone are sovereign, and they erect what governments they please, and confer on them such powers as they please.” Jefferson Davis

The Pursuit of Liberty

“If any lingering doubt could have existed as to the reservation of their entire sovereignty by the people of the several States when they organized the federal Union, it would have been removed by the Tenth Amendment . . . the particular one in which they substantially agreed, and upon which they most urgently insisted. Indeed, it is quite certain that Constitution would never have received the assent and ratification of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and perhaps other States, but for a well-grounded assurance that the substance of the Tenth Amendment would be adopted. The amendment is in these words:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

To have transferred sovereignty from the people to a Government would have been to have fought the battles of the Revolution in vain – not for the freedom and independence of the States, but for a mere change of masters. Such a thought or purpose could not have been in the heads or hearts of those who molded the Union.

The men who had won at great cost the independence of their respective States were deeply impressed with the value of union, but they could never have consented, like “the base Judean,” to fling away the priceless pearl of State sovereignty for any possible alliance.”

(Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, pp. 146; 156)

 

Republicans, Sectionalism and War

Michigan Senator Lewis Cass was born in New Hampshire in 1782 and quite possibly had seen President George Washington as a young man. A lifelong Democrat and devoted Northwestern man who watched the latter territory develop, he longed to see the sectional troubles developing in the 1850’s resolved with faithful compromise. The nascent Republican party was not to be compromised with, and after electing its first president with a small plurality in 1860, plunged the country into a war it never recovered from.

Passing in 1866, he lived long enough to witness Washington’s republic perish in the flames of sectional warfare.

Republicans, Sectionalism and War

During the deliberations of the Compromise of 1850, Lewis Cass believed slavery to be a misfortune to the South, but only “the passage of ages” could bring about emancipation without the destruction of both races.

On the date July 6, 1854, the Whigs and Free-Soilers, or the “Free Democracy” of Michigan, met and formed a new party. The name Republican was adopted with old party trammels soon cast aside and all bent to the task of forming a party upon the cornerstone of unionism and freedom. This new party was opposed to State sovereignty as well as constitutional interpretations which were contrary to their views, and gave their strength to this party which advocated nationalism.

Though claiming to be a party of Americans for America, its absorption of the fiercely anti-Catholic Know-Nothings meant that only Protestants were to be tolerated.

It was a source of regret to Cass that a party with a “sectional” aim should find support in the country. For above all else he loved the Union, hoping against hope that harmony would be restored. But Michigan, so long faithful to him gave Fremont a popular plurality and elected a Republican legislature with an overwhelming majority.

“You remember, young man,” Lewis Cass said to James A. Garfield in 1861, “that the Constitution did not take effect until nine States had ratified it. My native State [of New Hampshire] was the ninth. So I saw the Constitution born, and I fear I may see it die.”

Though only nine of thirteen States ratified the third Constitution in June, 1788, the others remained fully independent States. And logically, should conventions of any of the thirteen (or subsequent States admitted) revoke or rescind their ratifications to resume their full-independent status and pursue another political arrangement, any lover of freedom and liberty would applaud this.

Lewis Cass, Andrew C. McLaughlin, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891, pp. 301-324)

War was Lincoln’s Choice

President James Buchanan disagreed with secession as the prerogative of a State, but admitted that he as president held no authority to levy war to stop it — and his attorney general concurred. Both were well-aware of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying was against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Buchanan could not use military force against a State without committing treason.

War was Lincoln’s Choice

“The States of the deep South dissolved their connection with the voluntary union of the United States with marked legality at the beginning of 1861. For a quarter of a year no one knew that there was to be a war. Then Lincoln (unauthorized by the Constitution) called for troops; and the upper South, led by Virginia, seceded.

The point is, Lincoln could have chosen to let the South go in peace on the grounds that a just government depends on the consent of the governed, and the Southern States had withdrawn that consent.

But, said the North, the majority do consent, since there are more people in the North. Even if most of the people in the South do not consent, we in the North are the majority of the whole nation. Thus, the rights of a minority, although a minority of millions, mean nothing.

This is precisely what [Alexis] de Tocqueville warned against: the tyranny of the majority. And Lord Acton was deeply convinced that the principle of States’ rights was the best limitation upon the tyranny of the majority that had ever been devised.

Thus Lee did represent the cause of freedom, and Lord Acton broke his heart over Lee’s surrender because the principle of States’ rights was finally and forever denied.

The America of today is the America that won that immense triumph in the war – the triumph of unlimited, equalitarian democracy. And its leaders have blurred the distinction between freedom and equality to the point where many people use those words as virtually interchangeable terms.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 142)

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

Author Howard Ray White writes in his new “Rebirthing Lincoln” that Northern forces concentrating black refugees together in “contraband camps” promoted sickness and disease. He notes as well a smallpox epidemic “was first noted in 1862 among black congregations in Washington, DC . . . It subsequently spread south reaching epidemic levels among blacks and arriving in Texas in 1868.” This excellent and timely book is available in print or audiobook formats at www.Amazon.com.

The book helps make it clear that had the war been avoided through patience, diplomacy and a constitutional convention of States to solve their differences peacefully, the lives noted below would have been saved and the Founders’ republic perpetuated. Or perhaps two or more American republics, as Jefferson anticipated.

Americans Unable to Control Their Future

“The December 2011 issue of Civil War History, a scholarly journal published quarterly be The Kent State University Press, presented a highly-praised, 41-page census quantitative study by J. David Hacker, titled “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War Dead.” Hacker, presently at the University of Minnesota, reports that his study indicates that our ancestors suffered 750,000 soldier deaths instead of the 620,000 traditional number, an increase of 130,000.  He believes the Confederate deaths from disease and accidents have been seriously undercounted.

Due to the North’s scorched-earth policy, food, clothing and shoes were often scarce, increasing the death rate from exposure and disease, so we assign 70% of those 130,000 deaths to Confederates, elevating their death total from 260,000 to 350,000. The death toll for Lincoln’s invaders rises to 400,000. Hacker’s figures include war injuries that resulted in death up to 4 years after surrender.

A death toll of 350,000 Southern men represents 30 percent of the white male population, aged 18 to 48, that were living in the seceded States when Lincoln launched his invasion. And a death toll of 400,000 Northern men, many, many just-arriving immigrants, represents 9 percent of that population, aged 18 to 48.

Applying 30 percent to today’s American population (2010 census), calculates to 21 million deaths – a war death toll that today’s Americans cannot comprehend. Only the region between the Rhine and Volga in World War II suffered greater mortality.

White civilian deaths during Lincoln’s invasion and the first four years of the political Reconstruction that followed are a very sad historical story. William Cawthon estimated that 35,000 white civilians died. Historian James McPherson calculates that the North’s war against civilians destroyed two-thirds of the assessed value of wealth in the Confederate States, two-fifths of their livestock and over half of their farm machinery, resulting in a destitute people, struggling to find enough to eat, unable to control their future.”

(Rebirthing Lincoln: A Biography, Howard Ray White, Southern Books, 2021, excerpt pg. 258)

The High Functionary’s War

President Jefferson Davis’ message to the Third Session of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States at Richmond, Virginia, July 20, 1861 (excerpts):

“Commencing in March last, with an affectation of ignoring the secession of the seven States which first organized this Government; persisting in April in the idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus; continuing in successive months the false representation that these States intended offensive war, in spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary . . . the President of the United States and his advisors have succeeded in deceiving the people of those States into the belief that the purpose of [the Confederate] Government was not peace at home, but conquest abroad; not the defense of its own liberties, but the subversion of those of the people of the United States.”

Under cover of [an] unfounded pretense that the Confederate States are the assailants, that high functionary, after expressing his concern that some foreign nations “had so shaped their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable,” abandons all further disguise, and proposes “to make this conflict a short and decisive one,” by placing at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. The Congress, concurring in the doubt thus intimated as to the sufficiency of the force demanded, has increased it to a half a million of men.

These enormous preparations in men and money, for the conduct of a war on a scale more gigantic than any which the world has ever witnessed, is a distinct avowal, in the eyes of civilized man, that the United States are engaged in a conflict with a great and powerful nation; they are at last compelled to abandon the pretense of being engaged in dispersing rioters and suppressing insurrections . . . and are driven to the acknowledgement that the ancient Union has been dissolved.

In 1781 Great Britain, when invading her revolted colonies, took possession of the very district of country near Fortress Monroe, now occupied by troops of the United States. The houses then inhabited by the people, after being respected and protected by avowed invaders, are now pillaged and destroyed by men who pretend that the victims are their fellow-citizens.

Mankind will shudder to hear the tales of outrage committed on defenseless females by soldiers of the United States now invading our homes; yet these outrages are prompted by inflamed passions and the madness of intoxication. But who shall depict the horror with which they will regard the cool and deliberate malignity which, under pretext of suppressing an insurrection, said by themselves to be upheld by a minority only of our people, makes special war on the sick, including the women and the children, by carefully devised measures to prevent their obtaining the medicines necessary for their cure.

The sacred claims of humanity, respected even during the fury of actual battle, by careful diversion of attack from the hospitals containing wounded enemies, are outraged in cold blood by a government and people that pretend to desire a continuance of fraternal connections . . . The humanity of our [Southern] people would shrink instinctively from the bare idea of waging a like war upon the sick, the women, and the children of the enemy.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Volume I, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 118-120)

As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

Northern General John Pope was a veteran of Missouri fighting and as commander of Lincoln’s army in Virginia in mid-1862, with Lincoln’s approval, issued orders for his men to confiscate from Virginia citizens “whatever food, forage, animals and other supplies they might require; to exile behind federal lines all male citizens who refuse to swear allegiance to the United States; to execute all persons who fire upon federal troops; to destroy the property of all such persons; to force local residents to repair any railroads, wagon roads, or telegraphs destroyed in their neighborhoods; and to deny guards for the homes of citizens who seek protection.” These were orders unprecedented in warfare, and directed against Americans.

As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

“January 6, 1862: “Today Governor Letcher issued a proclamation designed to stir the passions of Virginians. The murderous and barbaric actions of the United States government during nine months of war have more than justified Virginia’s decision to secede, avers its chief executive.

Abraham Lincoln’s government, by its “unnatural” and “wicked” behavior, has “violated” and “annulled” the old compact between the States. More than that, Lincoln’s personal conduct has served to remind Southerners of another tyrannical and oppressive monarch who sought to enslave a free people some four score years ago. In another summer, in another century, that free and irrepressible people had risen up, joined together, cast off self-doubt, shoved aside its sunshine patriots, defied the penalty for failure, and declared its independence.

That, “our first revolution,” proclaims Letcher, can only serve to inspire Virginians and all Southerners in the unfinished task ahead. “We must be content with nothing less than the unqualified recognition of the independence of the Southern Confederacy and its nationality,” he continues; “and to this end we must meet the issue . . . with spirit, energy and determination.”

[In July, 1862, Culpepper, Virginia] has reacted as best it can. Some citizens take to the woods to plague detachments of federal troops as guerillas. Staccato exchanges of pistol and rifle fire vibrate across the country for the first time in the war. “The horrid Yankees have arrived,” reports one young lady. “There is skirmishing every day about the Rapidan River.”

The county makes so bold because they have heard rumors that Stonewall Jackson is rushing to the rescue. [No] one doubts that Stonewall will press on to liberate Culpepper [and that] includes the Union troops. It is as Pope has feared. Whatever confidence his address [to his troops] may have momentarily inspired is being corroded by the sniping and dreaded name of Jackson.”

(Seasons of War: The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, excerpt, pp. 87-88; 117-119)

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

“Going South”

The US Marine Corps in 1861 had a total strength of 1,775, including 63 officers. Nineteen of these went South in 1861 to join the newly established Confederate States Marine Corps, and all were very well-informed on the Constitution they had sworn an oath to defend against enemies both foreign and domestic, especially the latter. The following are taken from the resignation letters of three officers: one Marine and two Navy.

“Going South”

After reading Lincoln’s inaugural address, Captain Robert Tansill, USMC explained his resignation from the US Marine Corps:

“In entering the public service, I took an oath to support the Constitution, which necessarily gives me the right to interpret it. Our institutions, according to my understanding, are founded upon the principle and right of self-government. The States, in forming the Confederacy [in 1789] did not relinquish that right, and I believe each State has a clear and unquestionable right to secede whenever the people thereof think proper, and the Federal Government has no legal or moral authority to use physical force to keep them in the Union. Entertaining these views, I cannot conscientiously join in a war against any of the States which have already seceded or may hereafter secede, either North or South, for the purpose of coercing them back into the Union . . .”

Officers of the highest rank were also dismissed summarily, particularly if they, like Captain Isaac Mayo, took the trouble to attack the Lincoln administration. Writing from his Maryland estate on May 1, he asserted:

“It was the hope of my old age that I might die, as I had lived, an officer in the Navy of a free Government. This hope has been taken from me. In adopting the policy of coercion, you have denied to millions of freemen the rights of the Constitution and in its stead you have placed the will of a sectional Party. What a spectacle to intelligent minds . . . I cannot fight against the Constitution while pretending to fight for it. You will therefore oblige me by accepting my resignation.”

Less high-minded and more sentimental was the resignation letter sent by Lieutenant James J. Waddell who was serving aboard the USS John Adams and who wrote from the island of St. Helena the following lines:

“The people of the State of North Carolina having withdrawn their allegiance to the Government of the late Confederacy of the United States . . . I return to ‘His Excellency the President of the United States,’ the Commission which appointed me a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy . . . In thus separating myself from association which I have cherished for twenty years, I wish it to be known that no doctrine of the rights of secession, nor wish for disunion of the States impel me, but simply because my home is the home of my people in the South, and I could not bear arms against them.”

(Going South: US Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals On the Eve of the Civil War, Naval Historical Foundation Publications, Series II, Number 27, Fall 1981, pp. 21-22)

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