Lincoln on Secession

Lincoln, in his war address to Congress on July 4, 1861, made his views regarding secession clear and, I believe, is his longest treatment of the topic.   It has always struck me as interesting that Lincoln thought it necessary to clearly distinguish between secession and rebellion, and took up so much time in an address to Congress to do so.  Lincoln always understood that the war of ideas was just as important as the war on the battlefield, something some of our Presidents have failed to understand to their cost. A good summary by Mackubin Thomas Owens of how Lincoln’s position on secession had a long heritage among American statesmen prior to the Civil War may be read here.  My own views on secession are set forth in the comments  here.  Lincoln on secession:

“It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They know their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

With rebellion thus sugar coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State — to each State of out Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution — no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas in its temporary independence was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies” were declared to be “free and independent States;” but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterward, abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty” of the States, but the word even is not in the national Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty” in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “a political community without a political superior?” Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.

Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them in and by the national Constitution; but among these, surely, are not included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive; but, at most, such only as were known in the world, at the time, as governmental powers; and certainly a power to destroy the Government itself had never been known as a governmental — as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality. Whatever concerns the whole should be confined to the whole — to the General Government; while whatever concerns only the State should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle about it. Whether the national Constitution, in defining boundaries between the two, has applied the principle with exact accuracy is not to be questioned. We are all bound by that defining, without question.

What is now combatted is the principle that secession is consistent with the Constitution — is lawful and peaceful. It is not contended that there is any express law for it; and nothing should ever be implied as law which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. The nation purchased, with money, the countries out of which several of these States were formed. Is it just that they shall go off without leave and without refunding? The nation paid very large sums (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions) to relive Florida of the aboriginal tribes. Is it just that she shall now be off without consent, or without making any return? The nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of these so-called seceding States, in common with the rest. Is it just either that creditors shall go unpaid, or the remaining States pay the whole? A part of the present national debt was contracted to pay the old debts of Texas. Is it just that she shall leave and pay no part of this herself? Again, if one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.

The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. They have assumed to make a national constitution of their own, in which, of necessity, they have either discarded or retained the right of secession, as, they insist, it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby admit that on principle it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained it by their own construction of ours, they show that to be consistent they must secede from one another whenever they shall find it the easiest way of settling their debts or effecting any other selfish or unjust object. The principle itself is one of disintegration and upon which no Government can possibly endure.

It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of them. It is ventured to affirm this, even of Virginia and Tennessee; for the result of an election, held in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as demonstrating popular sentiment. At such an election all that large class who are, at once, for the Union and against coercion would be coerced to vote against the Union.

It may be affirmed, without extravagance, that the free institutions we enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Government has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but who had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than this; there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a court abundantly competent to administer the Government itself. Nor do I say this is not true, also in the army of our late friends, now adversaries, in this contest; but if it is, so much better the reason why the Government which has conferred such benefits on them and us should not be broken up. Whoever, in any section, proposes to abandon such a Government would do well to consider in deference to what principle it is that he does it — what better he is likely to get in its stead — whether the substitute will give, or be intended to give, so much of good to the people. There are some foreshadowing on this subject. Our adversaries have adopted some declarations of independence, in which, unlike the good old one, penned by Jefferson, they omit the words “all men are created equal.” Why? They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good old one, signed by Washington, they omit “We, the people,” and substitute “We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States.” Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men and the authority of the people?

This is essentially a people’s contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while in this, the Government’s hour of trial, large numbers of those in the Army and Navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor deserted his flag.

Great honor is due to those officers who remained true, despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, and most important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct of plain people. They understand, without an argument, that the destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them.

Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled — the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains — its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take it by war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.

Lest there might be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the Government toward the Southern States after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the Constitution and the laws; and that he probably will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively to the rights of the States and the people, under the Constitution, than that expressed in the inaugural address.

He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered for all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens everywhere have the right to claim this of their Government; and the Government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that, in giving it, there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation, in any just sense of those terms.

The Constitution provides, and all States have accepted the provision, that, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.” But if a State may lawfully go out of the Union, having done so, it may also discard the republican form of government; so that to prevent its going out is an indispensable means to the end of maintaining the guaranty mentioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory the indispensable means to it are also lawful and obligatory.

It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power, in defense of the Government, forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Government. No compromise by public servants could, in this case, be a cure; not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular Government can long survive a marked precedent, that those who carry an election can only save the Government from immediate destruction by giving up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.

As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these institutions shall perish; much less could he in betrayal of so vast and so sacred a trust as these free people had confided to him. He felt that he had no moral right to shrink, nor even to count the chances of his own life, in what might follow. In full view of his great responsibility he has, so far, done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to them, under the Constitution and the laws.

And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.

http://facweb.furman.edu/~benson/docs/lincoln.htm

If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that one out of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder politicians would at once deny the power and denounce the act as the greatest outrage upon States rights. But suppose that precisely the same act, instead of being called “driving the one out,” should be called “the seceding of the others from that one,” it would be exactly what the seceders claim to do; unless, indeed, they make the point that the one, because it is a minority, may rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority, may not rightfully do. These politicians are subtle and profound on the rights of minorities. They are not partial to the power which made the Constitution, and speaks from the preamble, calling itself “We, the people.”

25 Responses to Lincoln on Secession

  • Ah, yes.

    Lincoln was wrong in this case.

    But what an orator!

  • His ends may have been noble, yet the means were dastardly.

    Bush said that we have to abandon the free-market to save the market.

    Lincoln said we have the destroy the Constitution to save the Union.

    I will grant that Lincoln was far more well spoken than Bush; however, well executed oration does not forgive the error.

    The only thing in this country worse than a Republican president is a Democrat. Either way these parties pose the gravest threat to the Union.

  • Lincoln said we have the destroy the Constitution to save the Union.

    I tend to think that the states who seceded from the Union unjustly were more at fault for “destroying the Constitution,” but we’ll agree to disagree there.

  • Lincoln was head of the general government, which is a creature of the States. The creature has no rights save those given by the creators. The States, being the creators of the general government, have an inherent right to negate their creation when it grows into a monster.

    That being said, secession is a final resort, not only that it should be last to be exercised, but it is final as it ends the compact. I think the war could have been avoided, I think the South could have employed other means for redress, I think Lincoln could have sought a peaceful resolution. Both sides failed.

    We are still paying for that failure today.

  • The States, being the creators of the general government, have an inherent right to negate their creation when it grows into a monster.

    Seven southern states seceded before Lincoln was inaugurated. I suppose the leaders of the secessionist movement all had special glasses which permitted them to look into the future and see how the government under the United States would function under Abraham Lincoln. I want those glasses.

  • I have an extra pair. I’ll sell ‘em to you. ;)

  • Sweet! That will totally help me with my fantasy team.

  • Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable,– most sacred right–a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government, may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the teritory as they inhabit.
    Abraham Lincoln, January 12, 1848, in his speech on The War with Mexico. “The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln,” Volume 1, Edited by Roy P. Basler, Rutgers University Presss, New Brunswich, New Jersey, 1953, pages 431-42.

  • Wait, T.G. are you suggesting that Republicans campaign on conservative principles and then govern as statists?

    That’s preposterous, I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  • Paul, the glasses are very rare, so the question we have to ask is should we let the market set the price (sovereign individuals making free valuations) or should we consult with the government (random bureaucrats making arbitrary valuations and taking their vig)?

    I think Lincoln would be for the market decision so long as it did not contradict his will. You know we are free to make any decision we want, so long as it is the right one according to our masters.

  • “His ends may have been noble, yet the means were dastardly.

    Bush said that we have to abandon the free-market to save the market.

    Lincoln said we have the destroy the Constitution to save the Union.”

    No AK, his means, war, was chosen by the Confederates when they attempted, through force, to win by bulllets what they failed to win at the ballot box in 1860.

    “Either way these parties pose the gravest threat to the Union.”

    Rubbish AK. The two party sytem has served this nation well since the days of the Federalists and the Republicans. They have usually been broad enough to give voice to a broad spectrum of public sentiment in the country and normally avoid the paralysis that often afflicts multi-party systems. Political parties are a necessary evil of any democracy and ours have been less evil than most other party systems in the world.

    “The States, being the creators of the general government, have an inherent right to negate their creation when it grows into a monster.”

    The States didn’t create the country, the people of the country did. Hence the term “We The People” in the preamble to the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence created the Union by an act of the Second Continental Congress and not of the individual states. The Articles of Confederation declared that the Union created by the Declaration was perpetual. The Union was never some temporary alliance that the states could withdraw from whenever they pleased, but rather a new nation.

  • “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable,– most sacred right–a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government, may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the teritory as they inhabit.”

    Lincoln was a firm believer in the right of revolution as set forth by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Indepence. He referred to it often in his political career. He believed that in order for the right to be exercised, it needed to meet the requirements set forth by Mr. Jefferson:

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    Nothing confronting the South after the election of 1860 justified them revolting under the right of revolution set forth by Mr. Jefferson and believed in by Mr. Lincoln.

    Here is a link to the entire speech of Lincoln that the quotation about the right of revolution was taken from:

    http://www.animatedatlas.com/mexwar/lincoln2.html

  • Don,

    I fear that we will have this discussion every time the subject of the War for Southern Independence comes up or related issues like state’s rights. I must admit, when I have the time, I rather enjoy it. Most Yankees can’t engage in this argument without quarreling. You sire, are a gentleman.

    In the realm of man governing himself, we will never have a perfect system, but some are better than others.

    Our system, the best ever conceived, is not a democracy. We are a republic and utilize the democratic process, but that does not make us a majority rule, which always devolves into mob rule, which means he who controls the mob rules. Democracy always leads to tyranny, even when the tyrant’s ends are noble.

    Fort Sumter is in South Carolina. The general assembly of South Carolina seceded from the Union and requested the occupying federal forces depart from SC’s sovereign territory. Naturally, the feds did not comply because the totalitarian impulse of men in power is to assume everything they see belongs to them. The Confederate defense forces fired over the heads of the feds in order to let them know that the request for departure was not negotiable and absolute. How many US soldiers were killed at Fort Sumter?

    The war started when the Union troops invaded the sovereign territory of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I am looking out my window right now, on Centreville Ridge, in the direction where less than a holler away, the Yankees came to picnic and watch the little skirmish that would end the hostilities.

    That did not happen and the Army of Northern Virginia sent the Army of the Potomac running back across the river like little girls. Less than a mile from here stands a statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson right where he stood like a wall and the South rallied behind the Virginian. The war was started by the USA, not the CSA. The war was an unfortunate, and in my opinion unnecessary, consequence of the encroaching federal oppression and disregard for true sovereignty.

    I did not state that the alleged two-party system is necessarily the problem. I did state that the Democrats and the Republicans are the problem. The debate in this country is supposed to be between libertarians (classic liberals) and conservatives (traditionalists grounded in Judeo-Christian morality, which is necessarily Catholic even when not recognized as such). Instead we have one party – collectivists, that go by many names: progressives, democrats, socialists, etc. Some are Democrat-socialists/corporatists and others are Republican-corporatists/socialists. One seeks to manage me with foreign adventurism and allowing me to keep some of my money by giving me the gift of ‘tax-cuts’ for ‘socially’ responsible behavior, the other seeks to manage me by forcing me to behave in a ‘socially’ responsible manner by taking more of my money through more taxes, oh and yes, they also want foreign conflicts just for ‘socially’ responsible reasons. Both seek to rob us of our material wealth through inflation (deflation) and rob us of our freedom of religion by forcing us to be secular. Neither option is appealing; however, the Republicans have a chance at redeeming themselves by leaving the party to authentic conservatives. This is going to happen and all that will be left to see is how long it shall remain a conservative party this time – I fear this is the last chance.

    Me thinks that thou art missing the point. If this country was created democratically then there would be no need for a Continental Congress, we would have just everyone of We The People vote. By electing representatives from their own state, each sovereign person delegates some of their God-given sovereignty to their state representatives. Those delegates then attend the national convention and create laws, the laws govern the people. We are not to be governed by each other, we are to be governed by the laws that our delegates enact. Those laws enacted a compact with the approval and ratification of the sovereign parties – the 13 states and commonwealths that sent the delegates, elected by the people. Therefore the general government is a creature of the states and can only operate within the enumerated powers at the pleasure of the co-equal parties to the compact. In other words a republic.

    On this point, no American should disagree. We can disagree as to when nullification is wise and when secession is the only option left. If we respect the former, then the latter will never need be used. I am not sure if you are merely prejudiced to the argument because you are from the North, which I understand, because my love for my Southern culture may cloud some of my views, I pray not. Or, if you picked up some bad habits in law school – not exactly bastions of liberty. Either way, please keep in mind that all 13 colonies seceded from England and New England states were some of the first to address their option to secede from the newly formed Union.

    I also don’t think that any state should withdraw whenever they please for slight reasons. The Union is expected to be perpetual so long as God wills it; But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, …

  • Naturally, the feds did not comply because the totalitarian impulse of men in power is to assume everything they see belongs to them.

    It is a totalitarian impulse to continue to occupy territory that still legally belongs to you?

    The Confederate defense forces fired over the heads of the feds in order to let them know that the request for departure was not negotiable and absolute. How many US soldiers were killed at Fort Sumter?

    Oh gee, why did Anderson even surrender? He should have just had them over for cake and cookies after so gentle a “warning.”

    The war was started by the USA, not the CSA.

    The first shots of the war were fired, as we just discussed, by confederate troops. The semantical argument, though, is rather pointless. If the CSA was engaged in treason (as deemed by the Union) rather than rebellion, it would seem that the only proper response of the government would be to engage in military action to stop said treason lest other states get the message that the government will do nothing to stop these types of actions.

    The war was an unfortunate, and in my opinion unnecessary, consequence of the encroaching federal oppression and disregard for true sovereignty.

    You keep saying this, but again, you have not demonstrated here – or frankly at any other time – how this is so. I have asked this before, and I’ll ask it again: can you please identify the long train of abuses that justified the secession of the southern states? I’m not talking about what happened ex-post facto. What were the actions taken by the federal government that took place before the winter of 1860-61 that justified secession?

    As for the entire debate about whether or not the government created by the Constitution was federal or national in nature, you can see my post on Federalist 39 which I am putting up right about . . . now. Here it is. Madison himself points out that it is a mixture of both. The constitutional compact itself is national in nature because the people at large had to give their consent, but they did through state ratifying conventions – indicating the federal nature of the compact.

    Either way, please keep in mind that all 13 colonies seceded from England and New England states were some of the first to address their option to secede from the newly formed Union.

    And indeed there were whispers of secession throughout New England at various points during the reign of various Republican (the Jeffersonian Rs) administrations. They were wrong, too.

    I also don’t think that any state should withdraw whenever they please for slight reasons.

    You see, we’re actually in complete agreement. Unless of course you think losing an election constitutes a long train of abuses.

  • The Confederates fired over the heads of the defenders of Fort Sumter? Where on Earth did you hear that fable AK?

    From Confederate Military History, Volume 5, Chapter 1:

    “For thirty-four hours they assaulted Sumter with an unceasing bombardment, before its gallant defenders consented to give it up, and not then until the condition of the fort made it impossible to continue the defense. Port Moultrie alone fired 2,490 shot and shell. Gen. S. W. Crawford, in his accurate and admirable book, previously quoted, thus describes the condition of Sumter when Anderson agreed to its surrender:

    “It was a scene of ruin and destruction. The quarters and barracks were in ruins. The main gates and the planking of the windows on the gorge were gone;the magazines closed and surrounded by smouldering flames and burning ashes; the provisions exhausted; much of the engineering work destroyed; and with only four barrels of powder available. The command had yielded to the inevitable. The effect of the direct shot had been to indent the walls, where the marks could be counted by hundreds, while the shells, well directed, had crushed the quarters, and, in connection with hot shot, setting them on fire, had destroyed the barracks and quarters down to the gun casemates, while the enfilading fire had prevented the service of the barbette guns, some of them comprising the most important battery in the work. The breaching fire from the columbiads and the rifle gun at Cummings point upon the right gorge ‘angle, had progressed sensibly and must have eventually succeeded if continued, but as yet no guns had been disabled or injured at that point. The effect of the fire upon the parapet was pronounced. The gorge, the right face and flank as well as the left face, were all taken in reverse, and a destructive fire maintained until the end, while the gun carriages on the barbette of the gorge were destroyed in the fire of the blazing quarters.” ”

    http://www.civilwarhome.com/CMHsumter.htm

  • Don,

    How many Union KIAs?

    Paul,

    The reasons are numerous, the states expressed them in the Declarations of Causes of Secession and the Ordinances of Secession. They are chiefly violation of foundational principles and economic warfare. Now, before we go on, I want to be clear that I am not in favor of slavery in any way shape or form, save for slavery to Jesus. I am also aware that slavery is the common state for humankind and liberty the exception. We hold ourselves to higher ideals and many respected men of the mid 19th century were against slavery and in favor of the Union so long as the Constitution and the Republic it established were not violated.

    My Commonwealth voted against secession by a rather wide margin until Lincoln chose to invade the South to preserve the Union. It was the Northern invasion that provoked the people of Virginia and Gen. Lee.

    The mercantilist interests of the North and the use of of an unfair tariff that damaged the economies of most states, especially the Southern agrarian economies, were far more gross than the encroachments of England against the colonies.

    There were, are and always will be forces that seek to use the force of government to dominate rather than regulate, as in make regular. These are the men who attempted over and over again to establish a central bank in this country, even before the creation of the republic. This lust for domination came to light with the alien and sedition acts prompting Virginia and Kentucky to nullify those laws.

    Furthermore, as a Virginian, I take the ratification of the Constitution to be exactly as the commonwealth understood it when it was undertaken:

    “AN ORDINANCE to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United State of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution

    The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States:

    Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying and adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

    And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

    This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day, when ratified by a majority of the voter of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

    Adopted by the convention of Virginia April 17,1861

    Ratified by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451 on 23 May 1861

    I think that is pretty clear. If Virginia ratified the Constitutional compact while retaining the right to withdraw since the compact is a creature of delegated rites and powers, then why are we suddenly unable to do such thing merely because we exercise it?

    Now I am not advocating secession, but I am all for nullification, if the lawsuits our fine Catholic AG is bringing against the federal government are not given a proper hearing. Which is a difficulty thing to do in federal court, therefore, an appeal to the true arbiters of the Constitution may be needed – that is the states and commonwealths that created it and entered into it.

  • One Union soldier died due to an exploding cannon AK at the surrender ceremony AK. However, it was not for lack of trying by the Confederates as the article I cited above establishes.

    In regard to the Virginia Ordinance of Secession, how was the Federal government injuring the people of Virginia prior to the Civil War? How was it that a substantial portion of the people of Virginia so disagreed with secession that they broke away and formed the state of West Virginia during the war? Was the state of Virginia justified, as it did during the war, in calling West Virginians traitors in their attempt to break away from Virginia?

  • Don, Fort Sumter was a customs post. It was no longer property of the general government of the Union because the Union was legally and effectively dissolved in the sovereign and independent state of South Carolina. No Southern troops engaged in any hostilities until Lincoln sent munitions and supplies to the customs post – clearly, either to bait the Southerners in a typical false flag operation as a pretext for war, or in anticipation of opening fire on the Southerners. Either way, the first act of aggression was Lincoln’s.

    The people of Virginia and the whole South were covering a disproportionate amount of the federal taxes and the threat of secession, which should have let the North know that we were serious, did not lower the disproportionate tax. Instead it prompted the mercantilist interests to yell, ‘preserve the Union”, which meant, don’t let our tax revenue be taken away by a bunch of redneck farmers.

    Northerners were not concerned about African slavery, save for a small band of terrorists. Northerners were far more concerned about the increasing quantity of those pesky Papist immigrants.

    Additionally, Lincoln and the Republican party in general, and this is pretty much true to this day, save for brief moments of clarity (Goldwater, Reagan, Paul, TEA Parties), desire three things:

    Import/export tariffs
    Corporate welfare for their mercantilist/corporatist friends
    Central banking and paper money backed by nothing

    Those three vile things are incompatible with a republican form of government and since the Commonwealth of Virginia is mostly responsible for the Union created by the Constitution because it was based on the Virginia plan, drafted by Virginians, the convention was presided over by a Virginian who became the first president of the Union and Virginia’s ratification debates and ratification vote were absolutely necessary for the Union – we sort of know what we are talking about.

    Nevertheless, Virginia has a history of prudence and nullification was preferred to secession until such time as Lincoln began arresting people like the mayor of Baltimore, calling troops up without Congressional approval, suspending Constitutional provisions illegally and even against the declarations of the Supreme Court and then demanding to invade the sovereign territory of Virginia in order to force the South back into the Union. This is additionally evidenced by the fact that he ceased to refer to these United States as a Union and began referring to us a Nation, betraying his intent.

    West Virginia was not a substantial portion of our population and the secession of western Virginia was highly irregular and agitated by the Yankees in order to reduce Virginia’s sovereign territory – a punishment for not providing troops for Lincoln’s invasion force, most notably, Gen. Robert E. Lee. As for the Unionists that had more loyalty to the General Government than their home, they should have moved to Pennsylvania. This was just an evil plan, that included giving the entire Delmarva to Delaware and large swaths of our territory to Maryland (basically the entire Piedmont and Tidewater, leaving the vital Shenandoah Valley effectively landlocked and taking the capital of the Confederacy too) which had already been forced to remain in the Union through questionable methods.

    The vertical check on government power is more necessary than the horizontal, trinitarian division. Without state’s rights, the principle of subsidiarity has no chance of being applied. It seems that the sentiments of Virginia have spread across the entire country outside NYC and San Francisco today. Right is right and people can only be pushed so far – our Constitution gives voice to those with grievances, yet, tyrants can always ignore the will of the people, the rights of the states and the Constitution. Eventually that comes at their own peril – the beautiful flag of my Commonwealth says it best: Sic Semper Tyranus.

  • “Don, Fort Sumter was a customs post. It was no longer property of the general government of the Union because the Union was legally and effectively dissolved in the sovereign and independent state of South Carolina.”

    Fort Sumter was federal property. It did not belong to South Carolina but rather to the Union. The attempt of South Carolina to secede was neither legal, what court handed down that decision?, or effective as the outcome of the Civil War proved. The attack on Fort Sumter was a demonstration of just how fatally Confederates misunderstood the depth of love of the Union in the North and that the North would fight a long and grueling war to preserve the United States.

    “No Southern troops engaged in any hostilities until Lincoln sent munitions and supplies to the customs post – clearly, either to bait the Southerners in a typical false flag operation as a pretext for war, or in anticipation of opening fire on the Southerners. Either way, the first act of aggression was Lincoln’s.”

    Rubbish. The policy of the Lincoln Administration to hold forts in Confederate territory was clear. The Lincoln administration, in order to avoid violence, kept the South Carolina government appraised of attempts to resupply Fort Sumter. The Confederates would have been wise to simply allow the resupply since the Fort was no military threat to South Carolina. However, wisdom was something sorely lacking in the South at the start of the Civil War as Rhett Butler mordantly observed at the beginning of Gone With the Wind.

    “The people of Virginia and the whole South were covering a disproportionate amount of the federal taxes”

    Rubbish. The Tariff Act of 1857 was highly favorable to the South.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariff_of_1857

    “Northerners were not concerned about African slavery, save for a small band of terrorists.”

    The vast majority of abolitionists were not terrorists AK, but people with the curious belief that people should not be held as slaves because of their race. Most Northerners were not abolitionists, but a majority of Northerners were opposed to slavery, as the unpopularity of the Fugitive Slave Act in the North demonstrates.
    “Northerners were far more concerned about the increasing quantity of those pesky Papist immigrants.”

    The Know Nothing Party was a spent political force by the Civil War AK, due in no small part to efforts by men like Abraham Lincoln who fought against prejudice against Catholics just as he fought against the enslavement of blacks. Catholic immigrants, mainly Irish, were a mainstay of the Union armies that defeated the Confederacy.

  • “Additionally, Lincoln and the Republican party in general, and this is pretty much true to this day, save for brief moments of clarity (Goldwater, Reagan, Paul, TEA Parties), desire three things:

    Import/export tariffs
    Corporate welfare for their mercantilist/corporatist friends
    Central banking and paper money backed by nothing”

    The Republican Party in Lincoln’s time supported protective tariffs. The Republican Party has been pro-free trade since World War II.

    Corporate Welfare did not exist in Lincoln’s time due to miniscule government spending outside of spending on the war. Both parties have been afflicted since the New Deal with spending like drunken sailors.

    Both the USA and the CSA issued paper money during the Civil War. The difference was that the greenbacks retained their value and the Confederate currency was worthless long before the Confederacy lost the war. The Union managed its finances with consummate skill and the Confederacy managed its finances with consummate folly.

  • “Those three vile things are incompatible with a republican form of government”

    That entire paragraph is all balderdash AK. The Civil War was all about slavery and the leaders of the Confederacy stated this in no uncertain terms at the time. Latter-day Neo-Confederates try to ignore this fact, but a fact it remains all the same.

    “West Virginia was not a substantial portion of our population and the secession of western Virginia was highly irregular”

    What a hoot! The attempted secession of Virginia from the Union was not a “highly irregular” event? Secession was decisively voted down in the portion of Virginia that became West Virginia. They wished to remain a part of the Union and they got their wish courtesy of the Union Army that protected them from Confederates who wished to punish them as “traitors”. If the South had won the Civil War AK, I have absolutely no doubt that what West Virginia did would have been replicated many times when any portion of the CSA became disgruntled. Allow secession to succeed once, and it would become a common remedy in times of national stress.

    “Without state’s rights, the principle of subsidiarity has no chance of being applied”

    States have a valuable and essential role in the United States. Destroying the Union is no part of that role.

  • Don,

    I love these discussions we have every time you post something about Lincoln and/or the War for Southern Independence.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t the time to respond to your posts right now and probably not until long after this thread is forgotten. Somehow, I doubt that you will refrain from posting something relevant to this topic in the future and I doubt that I will be able to resist responding from an Upper South perspective.

    I have to say that it isn’t likely that either one of us will change our positions. But, I do learn something every time you challenge me to defend the Southland. I have a great deal of respect for you and I am not a blind neo-Confederate. Please keep in mind that I am Levantine and wasn’t even born here in my home, but my blood has been transfused with good old Southern pride.

    The historical discussion is fun, I somehow doubt too many are all that interested in it. What is relevant is the fact that since the war, actually building in the antebellum period, states’ rights have been eroding and at an accelerated pace. Keep in mind that African slavery was not supported by many in the South, including Robert E. Lee. As a Catholic I abhor slavery and my defense of the South is in no way shape or form a defense of slavery. Additionally, the events that led to the war and the way the occupation was handled afterward are very relevant to us today.

    I also want you to know that I am pro-Union; however, I must add that the Union is only viable if it is a Constitutional Republic and the states’ have practical power to check the encroachments of the general government, and the general government checks the encroachment of the states vis. its enumerated powers.

    I believe that many of the problems we are experiencing today would not exist had we an authentic respect for states’ rights, especially nullification. I also suspect that we may see that debate sooner than later. Our fine Catholic AG is challenging the nationalists in the general government as we speak. May God bless him and his efforts.

    Federal courts are not the ultimate arbiter of whether or not something is legal, they have an inherent conflict of interest. The parties to the compact are the ultimate arbiters of the law, except where it is specifically enumerated to the general government. Of course, you are an attorney and I am merely a layman, so I present my humble opinion in that light and feel comfortable having this discussion with you and not too many other attorneys simply because I know you are a soldier of Christ before you are a lawyer.

    Thanks again for the post and the opportunity. I’m sure we’ll pick it up again.

  • Good jousting with you AK. It is always fun. In regard to Robert E. Lee, as you know, he is one of the Americans I hold in highest esteem, and I have noted his abhorrence of slavery and secession.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/13/marse-robert/

    Debating the Civil War and the great issues it raises is something that Americans will be doing from now until Doomsday. For me, the great lesson to be learned from that terrible national calamity is that we are one people: Union soldier, Confederate soldier, black slave.

    That is why when I read Civil War history, I am as apt to read studies of the Confederacy as I am of the Union. When I read the history of the Confederacy, I am reading the history of my countrymen, just as much as I am when reading the history of the Union during the War. I feel the same way when I am reading about the slaves in bondage. For me my feelings about the Civil War can be summed up in the phrase E Pluribus Unum.

  • Don,

    You are a gentleman and a scholar. Until next time my friend, Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.

  • Lincoln claimed to read minds. The 13 original colonies declared themselves independent States…but clearly they didn’t MEAN it.

    He makes an excellent point about debts and about land purchased from Spain, etc. Both sides of that war were very faulty but still I wonder why no one thinks that some kind of treaty couldn’t have been made.

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