Ron Paul and the Civil War

Congressman Ron Paul (R. Pluto) is running for President again, and I assume his views on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln haven’t altered since this interview which took place in 2007.  I will leave to other venues debates as to Ron Paul and his stance on current issues.  I would merely note that in regard to the Civil War he appears to be singularly ill-informed.  According to Mr. Paul the entire Civil War could have been avoided with a plan for compensated emancipation.  Now if only Abraham Lincoln had thought of that!  Wait, he did!

Abraham Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipaction from the 1840s, a stance that he held to through the Civil War, a fact which appears to elude Mr. Paul. Here is an excellent article on Mr. Lincoln and compensated emancipation.  Lincoln offered compensated emancipation time and time again, the last time being at the Hampton Roads Peace Conference on February 3, 1865, when the Confederacy was clearly almost defeated.  His proposal was rejected by the Confederates.  The simple fact is that neither slave holders in the Confederacy nor in the border states had any interest in compensated emancipation.  I hope if this subject comes up again during this campaign that someone will take the opportunity to correct Mr. Paul’s vast ignorance in this area.

96 Responses to Ron Paul and the Civil War

  • Don, perhaps you would be interested in what H.L. Mencken wrote about Lincoln in May 1920, a lot closer to the Civil War than now:

    “Lincoln becomes the American solar myth, the chief butt of American credulity and sentimentality. Washington, of late yeas, has been perceptibility humanized; every schoolboy now knows that he used to swear a good deal, and was a sharp trader, and had a quick eye for a pretty ankle. But meanwhile the varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting Abe into a plaster saint, thus making him fit for adoration in the YMCA’s. All the popular pictures of him show him in the robes of state, and wearing an expression fit for a man about to be hanged. There is, as far as I know, not a single portrait of him smiling—and yet he must have cackled a good deal, first and last: who ever heard of a storyteller who didn’t?

    “Worse, there is an obvious effort to pump all his human weaknesses out of him, and so leave him a mere moral apparition, a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost. What could be more absurd? Lincoln, in point of fact, was a practical politician of long experienced and high talents, and by no means cursed with idealistic superstitions.

    “… Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a messiah. Nothing alarmed him more than the suspicion that he was an abolitionist, and Barton tells us of an occasion when he actually fled town to avoid meeting the issue squarely. An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run. But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable—until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and more important still, until the political currents were more safely running his way. Even so, he freed the slaves in only a part of the country; all the rest continued to clank their chains until he himself was an angel in Heaven.”

    Mencken goes out to praise the Gettysburg speech as “most eloquent,” but then said it boiled down to this: “The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—that ‘the government of the people, by the people, for the people’ should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country – and for nearly 20 years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.”

    You may consider the source unreliable, Don, given Mencken’s agnosticism, but as lifelong newspaper reporter with an eye for astute and objective observation he was without peer. He goes on to express doubts that Lincoln was a Christian, noting: “Herndon and some of his other early friends always maintained that he was an atheist, but the Rev. William E. Barton, one of the best of the later Lincolnoligists argues that this atheism was simply disbelief in the idiotic Methodist and Baptist dogmas of his time—that nine Christian churches out of ten, if he were alive today, would admit him to their high privileges and prerogatives without anything worse than a few warning coughs. As for me, I still wonder.”

  • I treasure Mencken’s The American Language Joe, and I have read with pleasure many of his bitter and acerbic columns. However as a historian he is the same league as Ron Paul.

    We see that in full display in his essay The Calamity of Appomattox:

    http://brionmcclanahan.com/?p=184

    Among other historical howlers he makes this gem:

    “No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it.”

    Now that statement is completely at variance with reality. In the states that made up the Confederacy the bonds of slavery were being tightened in the decades prior to the War. Very few future Confederate leaders made any anti-slavery statements in the 20 years leading up to the war, Robert E. Lee was a notable exception, and those who did made them in passing in private correspondence. The Confederacy was set up to protect slavery. The depth of Confederate committment to slavery was indicated in that a proposal to enlist black troops in the Confederate Army, in spite of a critical manpower shortage for the Confederacy throughout the War, was not enacted into law until 1865 when the Confedracy was on its deathbed. Black troops fighting for the Union and their white officers were subject to the death penalty under Confederate law. Many blacks and their white officers were executed after capture with spared black troops not treated as POWs, but rather enslaved.

    HL Mencken: good writer, poor historian, rotten human being.

  • Don, disagree, having read much Mencken. In context, although he was irascible and not in a league as a thinker as his two idols–G.B. Shaw and Nietzsche–he was vastly underrated as humorist and often wrote tongue firmly in cheek.

    He was more a critic of ideas than of men; ribald, fresh and original. His “Treatise on the Gods,” while flawed in many respects, is truly devoid of malice. He loved to raise hackles, which he did better than anyone else during his prime.

    As for his being a “rotten human being,” you ought to cut him some slack. Because, as he neared death, he wrote: ‘If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.’

    He was the self-described ‘amiable skeptic,’ who never denied the existence of God, but never fully embraced it; he thought too much and left too little room for the spiritual. As an agnostic, I can relate. I would have loved to had a beer or two with him.

  • Don, you might enjoy this, only known recording of HLM:

  • He was a pro-abort and a snob Joe, as well as being a full time jerk. The only amiable feature I can think of him is his care for his wife when she was dying, which is to his credit. However, I think that is probably enough in regard to Menken as I do not want this thread to devolve into a debate over the Sage of Baltimore.

  • Hmmm, ad hominems do not address the accuracy of his observations, Don, I’m surprised that you would try the old tactic of the trial lawyer, “if you have the law, pound the law, if you have the facts, pound the facts, if you have neither, pound the table.”

    If Menken is right he’s right, regardless of his character, if he’s wrong, he’s wrong, regardless of his character. Either way, whether he was an SOB is irrelevant.

    He’s really correct about Lincoln, of course: he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery (of course, Ron Paul makes the incorrect assumption that Lincoln was motivated by slavery). Slavery was a cynical ploy to boost flagging support for the war and keep England from joining the war on the side of the South.

    Paul’s fundamental claim is accurate: Lincoln by his precipitate resort to armed invasion of the South fundamentally altered the nature of our Federal republic from one of limited and tightly controlled central government, to a virtually unlimited central government. After all, when you can militarily invade and occupy 11 states, it’s hard to imagine what power can NOT be assumed by the federal government.

  • Wrong Tom, and actually I did point out instances where both Mencken and Paul are wrong on history. It is icing on the cake that Mencken was a SOB and Paul is a headcase.

  • Don, I believe you can argue better than to merely cast aspersions. You are persuasive and at your best when you avoid ad hominems, as we all are. Factual history is often illusory from the distance of more than a century. Contemporary accounts are perhaps the most accurate. Is it so important that each of us has to be 100 percent “right” about every issue? Can we not stipulate that there are so many variables and points of view that allow for fair and honest disagreement without resorting to name-calling, the least convincing of all forms of argument?

  • Well Joe you cited Mencken as an authority. I pointed out that he was a good writer, a poor historian and a rotten human being. In regard to Mencken none of those statements are ad hominem but merely descriptive. I rather think that Mencken, cross-grained as he was, might well have agreed with all three. I would note that I have previously indicated that I did not wish this thread to devolve into a debate over Mencken, and I will begin to prune comments if necessary to avoid this becoming a thread about the most famous American devotee of Nietzsche.

  • Who am I to argue with the man who controls the switch?

  • Alright Tom, your turn to man up. Instead of just asserting something to be true: “he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery (of course, Ron Paul makes the incorrect assumption that Lincoln was motivated by slavery). Slavery was a cynical ploy to boost flagging support for the war and keep England from joining the war on the side of the South.”

    Prove it.

  • Vocational iconoclasts can get tiresome very quickly (and Mencken does), but isn’t it rather de trop to refer to him as a ‘rotten human being’? His life was truncated, not scandalous.

  • No more on Mencken. Last warning to all. This thread is not about him and I am not going to allow this thread to proceed down that path. I have been very lax as of late about my threads staying on topic, and not going down various divergent by-ways, but Mencken is simply too far removed from the subject of the post. I will do any pruning of comments that I need to to enforce this blog ukase after I get out of court this afternoon. :)

  • This war hungry mentality of conservatives is really weirding me out. Why must war be a logical answer to the frustrations of a people?

    When is it incoherent to suggest 600,000 lives should not have been lost.

    Why don’t we go to war over abortion? That is a more serious offense than slavery. Now, that is a war I’d be happy to fight in.

  • So Ron Paul and Lincoln actually agree – compensated emancipation was a good idea! :D

    (Too bad the South and the Border States didn’t agree. :P )

    I think Ron’s animus against the Union as per the (not so) Recent Unpleasantness stems from a tendency of libertarians to see the Confederates, in their emphasis on secession and the rights of the states, as fellow allies in the Great Struggle Against Centralization And/Or Government Intervention. With that mindset, it seems, the fact that the Confederates main reason for secession was the preservation of the right to enslave one’s feloow man is a mere inconvenience, and Lincoln the true villain of the story.

    That said, does this mean we can say “Ron Paul is a neo-Con!”? ;)

  • Would I be out of bounds to note that it sure looked like there was a civil war brewing over Mencken?

    It’s not incoherent to suggest that there might have been alternatives to the bloodiest war in our history. The problem is, Paul is, as is too often the case, talking out of his hat. With the honorable exception of abortion, he seems to think that problems can be contracted away–the free flow of commerce is a balm for all ills.

    Don correctly notes that the slave codes of the southern states were being tightened in the decades before the War, and the restrictions on the small numbers of free blacks in slave states were also increased. Lincoln had a hell of a time trying to persuade the Union slave-holding states to abandon the institution, which is why we ended up with the 13th Amendment instead. Moreover, slaves were being used in southern factories, which meant that modern harvesting methods wouldn’t have made the institution obsolete by any means.

    Frankly, I don’t see how the War could have been avoided. The best result was that it could have ended in a much earlier Union victory (but still post-Emancipation), without the bitter desolation of the South. But that’s the province of alternate history, alas.

    Speaking of which, a fine example of an alternate War is Newt Gingrich (!) and William Forstchen’s trilogy that starts with “Gettysburg.” Without spoiling it too much, after a pair of crushing defeats, Lincoln calls Grant and his army from the west, including a significant number of black troops, to take on Lee in a fight to the finish.

    Peter Tsouras’ “Gettysburg” is an alternate history of the battle which puts Winfield Scott Hancock in charge of the Army of the Potomac on the third day, facing a much larger version of Pickett’s Charge, now fully supported by Longstreet. Needs more maps, but it’s very clever and well-thought out.

  • God, I hate these War Between the States threads. Spare us another 3-and-a-half years of this.

    ;-)

  • C’mon, it’s elementary school knowledge by now that lincoln famously stated, in 1862, well after the start of war, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

    He only later issued the so-called Emancipation Proclamation, a deeply cynical document that freed exactly zero slaves, and was aimed at weakening the Confederacy; Lincoln wrote to a supporter, “I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union.” (emphasis added).

    Whatever his personal views,it is clear as can be that Lincoln had no desire to enforce as a war aim the abolition of slavery, until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, and even then, as the passage above makes clear, the Proclamation was intended as an aid in restoring the union, not as a war-aim in itself.

    Lincoln honestly (and correctly) understood that he had no constitutional right to abolish slavery. Even after military conquest, it took passage of a constitutional amendment to effectuate that aim.

  • C’mon, it’s elementary school knowledge by now that lincoln famously stated, in 1862, well after the start of war,

    Yeah, but it’s also elementary knowledge that:

    1) When Lincoln wrote that he had already written the text of the Emancipation Proclamation, he just hadn’t issued it yet.
    2) However much people may want to insist that Lincoln wasn’t all that abolitionist and slavery wasn’t really the main issue — one group that clearly thought that Lincoln was abolitionist enough to force major action was the Confederate states, who seceded back in 1861 because they considered Lincoln unacceptably anti-slavery. To quote James McPherson’s This Mighty Scourge:

    “The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death,” a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. “The South cannot exist without African slavery.” Mississippi’s commissioner to Maryland insisted that “slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity.” If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, “the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone.”

    If these warnings were not sufficient to frighten hesitating Southerners into secession, commissioners played the race card. A Mississippi commissioner told Georgians that Republicans intended not only to abolish slavery but also to “substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races.”

    Georgia’s commissioner to Virginia dutifully assured his listeners that if Southern states stayed in the Union, “we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.”

    An Alabamian born in Kentucky tried to persuade his native state to secede by portraying Lincoln’s election as “nothing less than an open declaration of war” by Yankee fanatics who intended to force the “sons and daughters” of the South to associate “with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality,” thus “consigning her [the South’s] citizens to assassinations and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans…”

  • Lincoln hated slavery, and rightly so. He would have tried to limit it as much as possible within his powers, but not to the point of jeopardizing the nation. His priority certainly was to preserve the union, but that by no means meant he was indifferent to slavery. The idea that Lincoln really didn’t care about slavery is unsupportable. He just didn’t care enough about it to risk the union, and without question Lincoln’s motivation for fighting the war was to preserve the union, not eliminate slavery. Fortunately, both happened.

    And Don is correct. The theory is the South was already well on the way of eliminating slavery is nonsense put out by neo-confederates who cannot face the fact that the South sought to excercise its perceived right to secede because if felt slavery as an institution was endangered.

  • Who cares what Paul or Menken say about the CW.

    What does Obama say?

  • “The theory is the South was already well on the way of eliminating slavery is nonsense put out by neo-confederates . . . ”

    TRUTH. The southern economy was 90% dependent on cotton which was utterly dependent on slave labor.

    Same same northern abolitionists/indutrialistic plutocrats were competely depended on wage slaves and child labor.

  • This thread just goes to prove that Americans never get tired of fighting the same old battles.

  • “This thread just goes to prove that Americans never get tired of fighting the same old battles.”

    Joe, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a three day running internet battle between Catholics and Protestants over sola scriptura. You feel like you’ve time travelled back to the 16th Century.

    I’m convinced that quarrelsomeness is both a feature and a bug of human interaction.

  • Dale, I’ve been through several of those, along with the arguments over creation vs. evolution, the death penalty, the chicken vs. the egg, and which is better, NY or Chicago pizza. There are some arguments that will never be settled.

  • Actually, the NY or Chicago pizza debate was settled fairly easily. Chicago style won.

  • Says who? As a native New Yorker, I assert otherwise. You’ve got some crust, RL!

  • Now we are on pizza in this thread? Sheesh. Besides, it is a basic fact of life that Chicago Deep Dish Pizza represents the summit of the culinary art! Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  • Dem’s fightin words, Don. I am willing to tolerate your comments about HLM, but to disrespect NY pizza is the final straw and cause for an official protest. I demand an immediate retraction or else I will refer this to my cousin Vinny in Queens for further action.

  • I would be shaking right now Joe, except there are plenty of Italian Americans in the Windy City who will form legions to fight under the banner of Chicago Deep Dish!

  • Maybe we need to have a “sit-down.”

  • Chicago Deep Dish? You mean the culinary equivalent of Starbuck’s coffee: overcooked and overrated?

    And Joe I don’t have any relatives named Vinny, but I am from Queens.

  • Paul, of course, anyone with a vowel at the end of his name appreciates the superior taste of NY. I was born in Queens (Astoria) and thank you for your support.

  • Ah, people who do not like Chicago Deep Dish I pity rather than take umbrage against. They simply lack the taste buds for truly exquisite flavors, rather like people born color blind or those individuals who insist on dancing while having the sense of rythymn of a goat with palsy. I may establish a foundation for such poor souls. Perhaps I will call it Taste Buds Deprived Anonymous. :)

  • New York, Chicago, whatever. You’re all a bunch of damn Yankees, so who gives a crap? None of it holds a candle to pulled pork barbecue from Virginia or the Carolinas, some ribs from Memphis, or a slab of brisket from Texas.

    ;-)

  • Food fight!

  • I’m from Detroit, home of Little Caesars and Dominos and have plenty of each. I have had frozen pizzas warmed while still resting on their cardboard disc. I know a thing or two about sub par pizza. I have also had NY style pizza. I would put NY style somewhere between Jeno’s and Little Caesars.

  • Ya know what New Yorkers call Chicago deep dish pizza? LASAGNA.

    Think you can walk down the street eating one of them gooey messes?

    Jay, a real Virginia Ham . . . Heaven.

  • We know that real Italians have tried to make pizza outside NY, NJ and Naples.

    Impossible.

    Either it’s the water or the rest of the world is cursed. Probably the latter.

  • New York style pizza does have one use, as long as one does not mind sticky coasters.

  • The funny thing is that real Italians probably wouldn’t recognize either NY or Chicago-style pizza.

  • I’ve had real Italian pizza Paul. I didn’t like it much which was a considerable let down for me. I think I would have enjoyed it if I wasn’t used to American pizza.

  • Check out this Wikipedia entry regarding regional variations of pizza in the U.S.:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza_in_the_United_States

    Not only is there NY and Chicago style pizza, there’s Detroit-style pizza (Little Caesar’s), St. Louis-style pizza (which uses a strange amalgam of cheeses known as Provel), New Haven-style pizza (with white sauce and sometimes clams), Buffalo-style pizza (a cross between NY and Chicago styles), and California-style pizza (veggies, chicken, barbecue sauce, and God knows what else). There’s also “Greek pizza”, most popular in New England.

  • I’m also a Detroiter, and I call the NY-Chicago pizza fight as a TKO for Chicago style.

    I’ve also had Italian pizza, and there’s a very, very good reason the popular pizza places in the United Kingdom call themselves “American-Style.”

  • California style is not bad at all–I was pleasantly surprised when I had some in Sacramento a few years back.

  • What a thread !!! :lol:

    So now, for something completely different.

    I understand that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have commented on the DC earthquake, and confirm that it is a scarcely known geological formation known as “Bush’s Fault” :-)

  • California style is not bad at all–I was pleasantly surprised when I had some in Sacramento a few years back.

    Ach. A proper midwesterner’s id leads him here:

  • What was the original question? Oh Yea!

    While after the fact it easy to note the Civil War cost he Union more money than buying the slaves, it was not a price that was up front in 1861 for comparison with the cost of buying the slaves.

    Not only would the South have refused, but the Ron Paul’s of the day would have protested the cost.

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • “I understand that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have commented on the DC earthquake, and confirm that it is a scarcely known geological formation known as “Bush’s Fault””

    Thanks for an early morning smile Don!

    “Not only would the South have refused, but the Ron Paul’s of the day would have protested the cost.”

    Quite right Hank. Of course I doubt if Mr. Paul has studied the issue carefully, if at all. He simply doesn’t like Lincoln or the outcome of the Civil War, a common feature in the paleocon circles where he is considered a great leader, and making ahistorical comments about compensated emancipation is a socially acceptable way for a minor political figure to attack one of the greatest of American statesmen.

  • Good one, Don the Kiwi. :)

  • Its a shame this video wasn’t posted that is of actual use for the campaign. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txVg1C0PkLI

    Now for others. Check out Tom DiLorenzo’s book ‘Lincoln Unmasked” & other videos by him on youtube.
    Dr Tom Woods (a convert) “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History”

    Lincoln attacked the south for doing exactly what the founders of our land did. I wonder why the Vatican liked Jeff Davis more then Dishonest Abe, but the winners write history.

  • by the way nothing he said in the video is false. Every other nation on the planet got rid of slavery w/o a war. It was on the way out in our land as Jeff Davis & Robert E Lee both said they wanted to end slavery peacefully. Technology was going to phase it out. Funny the north loved the slave trade but condemned the south.

  • Check out Tom DiLorenzo’s book ‘Lincoln Unmasked”

    I’d sooner recommend the term paper of a sixth grader than anything written by DiLorenzo, unless of course you value poorly sourced, poorly argued screeds masquerading as academic tracts.

  • Dilorenzo is a dishonest hack Steve and not a historian. Actually what Paul said was completely false as to slavery ending peacefully in every other country. Review the history of Haiti for example. In regard to Jefferson Davis perhaps you might wish to review this section of the message he sent to the Confederate Congress on April 29, 1861 in which he states flatly that defense of slavery was the cause of the creation of the Confederacy:

    “The climate and soil of the Northern States soon proved unpropitious to the continuance of slave labor, whilst the converse was the case at the South. Under the unrestricted free intercourse between the two sections, the Northern States consulted their own interests by selling their slaves to the South and prohibiting slavery within their limits. The South were willing purchasers of a property suitable to their wants, and paid the price of the acquisition without harboring a suspicion that their quiet possession was to be disturbed by those who were inhibited not only by want of constitutional authority, but by good faith as vendors, from disquieting a title emanating from themselves. As soon, how ever, as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended. A continuous series of measures was devised and prosecuted for the purpose of rendering insecure the tenure of property in slaves. Fanatical organizations, supplied with money by voluntary subscriptions, were assiduously engaged in exciting amongst the slaves a spirit of discontent and revolt; means were furnished for their escape from their owners, and agents secretly employed to entice them to abscond; the constitutional provision for their rendition to their owners was first evaded, then openly denounced as a violation of conscientious obligation and religious duty; men were taught that it was a merit to elude, disobey, and violently oppose the execution of the laws enacted to secure the performance of the promise contained in the constitutional compact; owners of slaves were mobbed and even murdered in open day solely for applying to a magistrate for the arrest of a fugitive slave; the dogmas of these voluntary organizations soon obtained control of the Legislatures of many of the Northern States, and laws were passed providing for the punishment, by ruinous fines and long-continued imprisonment in jails and penitentiaries, of citizens of the Southern States who should dare to ask aid of the officers of the law for the recovery of their property. Emboldened by success, the theater of agitation and aggression against the clearly expressed constitutional rights of the Southern States was transferred to the Congress; Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra fanaticism, and whose business was not “to promote the general welfare or insure domestic tranquillity,” but to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of impairing the security of property in slaves, and reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority. Finally a great party was organized for the purpose of obtaining the administration of the Government, with the avowed object of using its power for the total exclusion of the slave States from all participation in the benefits of the public domain acquired by all the States in common, whether by conquest or purchase; of surrounding them entirely by States in which slavery should be prohibited; of thus rendering the property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless, and thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars. This party, thus organized, succeeded in the month of November last in the election of its candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

    In the meantime, under the mild and genial climate of the Southern States and the increasing care and attention for the wellbeing and comfort of the laboring class, dictated alike by interest and humanity, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slaveholding States had augmented from about 1,250,000 at the date of the adoption of the Constitution to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced. With this view the legislatures of the several States invited the people to select delegates to conventions to be held for the purpose of determining for themselves what measures were best adapted to meet so alarming a crisis in their history. Here it may be proper to observe that from a period as early as 1798 there had existed in all of the States of the Union a party almost uninterruptedly in the majority based upon the creed that each State was, in the last resort, the sole judge as well of its wrongs as of the mode and measure of redress. Indeed, it is obvious that under the law of nations this principle is an axiom as applied to the relations of independent sovereign States, such as those which had united themselves under the constitutional compact. The Democratic party of the United States repeated, in its successful canvass in 1856, the declaration made in numerous previous political contests, that it would “faithfully abide by and uphold the principles laid down in the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798, and in the report of Mr. Madison to the Virginia Legislature in 1799; and that it adopts those principles as constituting one of the main foundations of its political creed.” The principles thus emphatically announced embrace that to which I have already adverted – the right of each State to judge of and redress the wrongs of which it complains. These principles were maintained by overwhelming majorities of the people of all the States of the Union at different elections, especially in the elections of Mr. Jefferson in 1805, Mr. Madison in 1809, and Mr. Pierce in 1852. In the exercise of a right so ancient, so well established, and so necessary for self-preservation, the people of the Confederate States, in their conventions, determined that the wrongs which they had suffered and the evils with which they were menaced required that they should revoke the delegation of powers to the Federal Government which they had ratified in their several conventions. They consequently passed ordinances resuming all their rights as sovereign and Independent States and dissolved their connection with the other States of the Union. ”

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_m042961.asp

    An attempt to argue that slavery was on its way out in 1861, and that the Confederacy was not created to protect and preserve slavery is profoundly silly and ahistoric.

  • An example of Dilorenzo in action:

    For example, DiLorenzo repeatedly asserts that Lincoln did not believe in human equality and shared the widely held prejudices of his time that blacks were inferior. Here is DiLorenzo:

    “Lincoln even mocked the Jeffersonian dictum enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. He admitted that it had become “a genuine coin in the political currency of our generation,” but added, “I am sorry to say that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must admit I never saw the Siamese Twins, and therefore will not dogmatically say that no man ever saw a proof of this sage aphorism” So, with the possible exception of Siamese Twins, the idea of equality, according to Lincoln, was a sheer absurdity. This is in stark contrast to the seductive words of the Gettysburg Address, eleven years later, in which he purported to rededicate the nation to the notion that all men are created equal.”

    DiLorenzo cites the first joint debate between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, held in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1858, as the source of the quotation. The language actually comes from Lincoln’s eulogy of his longtime friend and colleague Henry Clay, delivered in July 1852. But that is the least of DiLorenzo’s problems. He uses this quotation, and a few other excerpted phrases, to “prove” that Lincoln’s professed belief in human equality was disingenuous. Here are Lincoln’s actual words:

    “[There are] a few, but an increasing number of men, who, for the sake of perpetuating slavery, are beginning to assail and to ridicule the white man’s charter of freedom, the declaration “that all men are created equal.” So far as I have learned, the first American, of any note, to do or attempt this, was the late John C. Calhoun; and if I mistake not, it soon after found its way into some of the messages of the Governors of South Carolina. We, however, look for, and are not much shocked by, political eccentricities and heresies in South Carolina. But, only last year, I saw with astonishment, what purported to be a letter of a very distinguished and influential clergyman of Virginia, copied, with apparent approbation, into a St. Louis newspaper, containing the following, to me, very extraordinary language:

    I am fully aware that there is a text in some Bibles that is not in mine. Professional abolitionists have made more use of it, than of any passage in the Bible. It came, however, as I trace it, from Saint Voltaire, and was baptized by Thomas Jefferson, and since almost universally regarded as canonical authority ‘All men are born equal and free.’

    This is a genuine coin in the political currency of our generation. I am sorry to say that I have never seen two men of whom it is true. But I must admit I never saw the Siamese Twins, and therefore will not dogmatically say that no man ever saw a proof of this sage aphorism.

    This sounds strangely in republican America. The like was not heard in the fresher days of the Republic.”

    DiLorenzo thus attributes to Lincoln the words of a Virginia clergyman whom Lincoln quoted and then went on to criticize. In the course of his eulogy of Clay, Lincoln defended the proposition of human equality and equal natural rights, as he did in all his major addresses. His argument is precisely the opposite of what DiLorenzo claims it to be.

    http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.736/article_detail.asp

  • It’s often claimed that it’s winners to write history — but just as often it is losers who write history. They are the ones still stewing over issues and churning out revisionist tomes while the winners have moved on to other things.

  • “I’m from Detroit”

    My prayers are with you.

  • I never said Lincoln was not an abolitionist, he was on a personal level. I said “he couldn’t have cared less about waging an armed crusade to destroy slavery” vis a vis the Confederacy. He knew abolition could not constitutionally be a legitimate war aim, but he believed militarily-enforced “union” was constitutional.

    I don’t have to believe Lincoln was a personally bad man; I think he personally was to all appearances a moral man. I just believe that he acted without legal or constitutional authority in invading 11 states, particularly states like my own Virginia, which had never lifted a military finger against the federal government.

    History is not a simple black and white in most cases. Lincoln was neither the Great Emancipator and spotless paragon of a president that the history books make him, nor was he a deliberate tyrant. He was doing what he thought necessary to maintain the union. He was grossly mistaken and gravely abused his powers, and fundamentally changed our Republic by castrating our federal system. But it is hard to find evidence that he did so for his personal aggrandizement.

  • He was grossly mistaken and gravely abused his powers, and fundamentally changed our Republic by castrating our federal system.

    As late as 1929, the central government of this country consisted of

    1. The military
    2. The diplomatic corps
    3. The postal service
    4. Several police forces, predominantly concerned with tax collection and immigration.
    5. Several agencies stewarding public land
    6. Several agencies engaged in scientific and technical research
    7. An agency which subsidized the construction of long haul roads
    8. Several regulatory agencies concerned with anti-trust matters, health and safety of manufactures, and the soundness of certain institutions of credit.
    9. A central bank and mint.

  • I neglected the veterans’ hospitals.

  • The Civil War would have been averted had Americans stayed in the British Empire. They would have been given self-government (to a large extent they had it already). Canada got it in 1867 despite the fact that most Canadians didn’t want it. Crucially, slavery was abolished throughout the Empire in 1833 and the owners compensated. And if the Canadian example is anything to go by, the Native Americans would have been better off. -)

  • You may rest assured John that the states that made up the Confederacy would have been no more eager to give up slavery because London said so, than they were to give up slavery because Washington said so.

    “They would have been given self-government (to a large extent they had it already.”

    Well actually the British govenment in the years leading up to 1775 did their very best to convince the colonists that they were taking away their right to self government. I discuss this at length in the post linked below:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/07/06/a-just-war/

  • Donald, I know this is departing somewhat from the original thread, but I have read your linked post with considerable interest. It raises some interesting questions. The rebellion was supported by 40-45 percent of the colonists and virtually none of the Native Americans. Conditions were hardly intolerable. Can armed revolt be justified in these circumstances? On the other hand, in acting to suppress the revolt the King was in effect declaring war on his own subjects, very difficult to justify since the situation could have been resolved amicably given less obstinacy on both sides.

    The root cause of the conflict surfaced again over a century later and was the main weakness of the British imperial concept. The Empire wanted the benefits of imperial protection (in the economic sense) but was unwilling to share in the cost of imperial defence.

    Going back to the War of Independence, which is something of a misnomer – when France waded in it became a global conflict – I think we can identify the winners and losers, starting with the winners:
    1. The Americans (excluding of course the Loyalists and the Native Americans).
    2. Great Britain. Although she lost the American colonies she strengthened her position in India and the West Indies, and bankrupted her main rival.
    And now for the losers:
    1. France. The economic consequences of the war led directly to the Revolution which destroyed the pre-eminence she had held since 1648. The 19th century was indisputably England’s.
    2. The Dutch republic. Never in a position to challenge England again.
    3. Spain. Her gains in Florida were short-lived and she failed to recover Gibraltar, which was the reason she joined the war in the first place.

  • As far as almost all Americans are concerned John the War of Independence will always be the War of Independence. What happened overseas was of small concern to Americans so long as they gained their independence from the British Crown.

    The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.

    In regard to the Tories, they quickly reconciled themselves to American independence, except for the bitter enders who went to Canada and named themselves United Empire Loyalists. More than a few of them ultimately returned to the US.

    In regard to France I believe your contention is incorrect. France was basically bankrupt before it enjoyed its victory over Great Britain in the War of American Independence. It could now trade freely with the US, and it had a possible ally against Great Britain in future conflicts, which happened in the War of 1812. Not a bad return for France on a relatively small investment.

    Great Britain was clearly the loser in the conflict as the British lost the centerpiece of the Empire and a territory with vast potential as the future history of the US demonstrated.

    The Dutch were a negligible power after the War of the Spanish Succession. Ditto Spain.

    If King George III had been wise enough to adopt the dominion concept, clearly envisioned by Edmund Burke in his speeches on America, the war could have been avoided. Alas George III was, at best, an unimaginative plodder. Few Kings have served Great Britain worse than the third Hanoverian.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Ironic comment given the thrust of this thread. Lee couldn’t have put it any better.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Cut and paste and post on every Al Qaida and Taliban web site for inspiration.

  • In regard to the American Civil War Tom, the relevant people were all the American people, North and South, black and white.

  • “Cut and paste and post on every Al Qaida and Taliban web site for inspiration.”

    The last thing Al Qaida or the Taliban want Joe is for any people to have the right to rule themselves, as their attempts to terrorize people into not voting in elections in Iraq and Afghanistan amply demonstrate. You would have a point if these two organizations were fighting to establish democracies, but since they are fighting to establish dictatorships you do not.

  • As loathsome as they are, Don, they are not anarchists. They want some form of home rule; a government created from within, not imposed from without. Did not the first Americans resort to violent rebellion to protest the heel of King George? One man’s freedom fight is another man’s terrorist.

  • When Menachem David led the right-wing Zionists in blowing up the King David hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946, killing 95 people of various nationalities and wounding 46, in the name of democracy, was that an act of a freedom fighter or terrorist?

  • Menachem Begin….damn typos

  • No Joe, the merry band of cut throats in the Middle East are not striving for the right of any people to rule themselves, but for them to rule throughout the Middle East. They are not fighting for people to peacefully express themselves at the ballot box and rule themselves, but for the people to be cattle to be led by them into a new Caliphate under the leadership of the terrorists. They have only contempt for the very concept of freedom.

  • “Did not the first Americans resort to violent rebellion to protest the heel of King George?”

    In order so that they could go on ruling themselves by electing their own rulers and to enjoy the freedoms later enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The contrast with the terrorists could not be starker. Michael Moore has compared the terrorists to the American colonists in rebellion Joe, but I expect little else from a man who could celebrate Cuban health care.

  • Don, please explain why the war of 1812 (a footnote in the Napoleonic Wars and completely unknown in England except by historians) helped Bonaparte who had rather more on his plate in Russia in that particular year. It is true that the British regarded the 13 colonies as the centrepiece of the empire (a word that had different connotations in the 18th century than it would have in the late 19th) and in fact briefly wound up the Colonial Office. The war left England with a debt of £250m which was effectively dealt with. The French deficit was about £100m less, but their failure to deal with it effectively caused the Revolution. I know Vergennes was more interested in avenging France’s defeat in the Seven Years War than in aiding the American colonists, but it is difficult to argue that France got a good return on the investment, given that it was not until the 1830s that French trade levels matched those of the last pre-Revolutionary year, 1789. Meanwhile Britain surged ahead, despite a much smaller population.

    Although US/British relations were not good throughout the 19th century, and slavery was an issue in this, as well as US predatory attitudes towards Canada (don’t forget Montgomery and Arnold invaded Quebec during the Revolutionary War, which had the effect of alienating British public opinion from the American cause) the Monroe Doctrine was welcomed by the British government and would have been meaningless unless the Royal Navy enforced it, which the Americans knew full well but were understandably reluctant to admit.

  • “Don, please explain why the war of 1812 (a footnote in the Napoleonic Wars and completely unknown in England except by historians) helped Bonaparte who had rather more on his plate in Russia in that particular year.”

    I can see why Brits do not wish to recall the War of !812 considering the thrashing received at New Orleans by Jackson. Someone must have recalled it however in the late fifties when Queen Elizabeth visited Newfoundland. My family was staying at that time in Saint Johns. (My mother was a Newfoundlander. She later became a naturalized American citizen.) The Provincial government decreed that the song the Battle of New Orleans could not be played so as not to offend the Queen. As my Mom foundly recalled, many Newfoundlanders, most of them Irish in descent as was my Mom, had record players playing the song with loud speakers blaring it out the windows during the Queen’s stay. I rather assume that members of the Queen’s entourage might have recalled the War of 1812 that day.
    In any case the fact that Bonaparte through away 600,000 men in Russia does not negate the fact that the War of 1812 gave France a strategic opening to make mischief in the New World if it wished to take it. It also handed the invincible Royal Navy several embarrassing defeats in ship to ship combat with the infant US navy. American privateers also devastated the British merchant fleet during the war. I think all of that would have been of great advantage to Bonaparte if he had stayed out of Russia and concentrated on driving Wellington out of Portugal and Spain. Wellington was a brilliant general but I doubt if even he could have successfully countered 600,000 fresh troops under Napoleon, especially a Napoleon who had learned several valuable lessons from Soult’s ill-fated invasion of Portugal that came to disaster before the lines of Torres Vedras.

  • In regard to French finances, the French aid to America was not the critical factor in the Financial crisis that led to the French Revolution. France actually had about the same level of national debt that Britain had in 1788 with each nation having to use half of annual revenues to service the debt. The difference was that Britain had much lower interest payments because Britain’s credit was good and France’s credit was poor and had been since at least the ending of the Seven Years War. The fiscal problems of France dated back to the domestic and military spending of the Sun King. The expenditure of the American war didn’t help, but France was effectively bankrupt prior to that time.

  • “Although US/British relations were not good throughout the 19th century” to say the least. It is a small miracle that the nations did not fight numerous wars throughout the Nineteenth century. I date the turning point in the relationship when Canada was granted dominion status in 1867. Canada by itself could never be a threat to the US and I think that led to a considerable lessening of tensions overall.

  • It was the failure of the Continental System that led Bonaparte to invade Russia whom he had made peace with at Tilsit. Bonaparte had no interest in the New World (he sold Louisiana for a pittance in 1804) and in any case would have been unable to intervene, his naval pretensions having been shattered at Trafalgar.

    The ‘Battle of New Orleans’ was a hit for Lonnie Donnegan in the late 1950s but I guarantee that few Brits knew what it was about. In any case the battle was fought after the peace treaty was signed at Ghent (Xmas Day 1814) and so counts as a catch outside the boundary, if you will excuse the cricketing metaphor. The US frigates did very well, but they were hardly up against the might of the Royal Navy, which had more important concerns at the time.

  • The invasion of Russia was the classic case of diverting one’s eye from the main enemy which for France was Great Britain. It is interesting how many of Napoleon’s counselors spoke against it at the time, regarding it as the wrong war against the wrong enemy.

    The French had the naval resources to slip out a brigade or two to America, rather as they did in 1797 to Ireland. Such a token force could have loomed large along the US canadian border in 1812-1814 as a spearhead for an American force. They would also have been useful to help train raw American troops.

    I have to disagree as to the Battle of New Orleans. If the Brits had seized it, I have my doubts as to whether they would have given it up. A lawyer’s quibbling view of the terms of the Treaty of Ghent could have made a case for the Brits not having to, since no mention was made of the Louisiana Territory. New Orleans might have become the America Gibraltar, although the fusion of Brit and French in that enclave might have been interesting to behold.

  • “The right of a people to rule themselves is always worth fighting for.”

    Ironic comment given the thrust of this thread. Lee couldn’t have put it any better.

    Incorporated into his so putting would have been the assumption that 1/3 of the native population were not part of ‘a people’.

  • When the British and Americans were at loggerheads in the first half of the 19th century it was before mass immigration transformed the US and it was really one set of bone-headed Anglo-Saxons confronting another. Even with the naval resources of the Victorian era the British knew they could not realistically take on the USA although Palmerston saw the Civil War as an opportunity to put one over on the Yankees and was encouraged by the bellicosity of Seward. After the Trent incident his original despatch was (or so we are told) mollified by Prince Albert literally from his deathbed and war was averted. Had Britain intervened on the side of the Confederacy – even the Liberal Gladstone had declared at the start of the war that the South “had made itself a nation” – she could have lifted the blockade of the Southern ports and possibly ensured the survival of the Confederacy.

    An understanding of history is essential in international relations. As a Cold War warrior I owe a debt of gratitude to the USA for her unwavering support for the Western democracies and in playing the major part in preventing World War III by a nuclear strategy which was constantly attacked by the ignorant and ideologically-motivated but which made perfect sense to me, and was vindicated in the end. I don’t expect states to act otherwise to their national interests, and there is a lot in the foreign policy of the only superpower with which I might disagree; but when all is said and done “God bless America!”

  • Mr. Nolan,

    One “Cold War Warrior” to another: “ignorant and ideologically-motivated” at best, they were useful idiots; at worst, they were traitors.

    I saw your fine soldiers in West Germany when I was with USFAE/NATO in the mid 1970’s. As such, “God Save the Queen!”

    There, I’ve lost my irish street cred . . .

    Back to the question of 1861 southern secession.

    Why did the southern states condone slavery?
    Was it pure evil?
    Was it race hatred?
    Was it sadism?
    Was it sexual?
    Was it economics?

    Slavery existed because it was economically beneficial to the southern states. The south did not see a viable economy outside supplying 90% of the world’s cotton.
    Additionally, cotton consumers, northern factors/financiers/shipping interests, and worldwide mill owners all benefited.

    Did the southern states secede as the perceived alternative was economic ruin?

  • “God bless America!”

    And a “God Save the Queen” to you John, a monarch my late mother, for all her Irish blood, dearly loved!

  • My late grandfather, Peter J Nolan MBE MC, British consul in Philadelphia, was a regular officer during the First World War in the South Lancashire Regiment, the old 40th Foot which served in the War of 1812. In 1815 the regiment embarked for England, but the transports were met at Spithead with the news that Bonaparte had escaped from Elba. Without landing they were diverted to Zeebrugge and transported by canal via Bruges to Ghent, where they formed the guard for the exiled Louis XVIII. On receipt of the news that the French were advancing on Brussels, they were force-marched 60 miles to Waterloo where they fought all day, continually moving from line into square and back again, and taking heavy casualties from the enemy artillery. At the end of the battle they were too exhausted to pursue the fleeing French and bivouacked as best they could on the battlefield, surrounded by the dead. One marvels at the endurance of these men.

  • Some comments have indicated that the “self-rule” argument for secession is invalid because blacks were not part of the calculus. This is a silly rejoinder, since blacks had no or very limited civil liberties ANYWHERE, north or south. So to claim that the South had no right to seek independence because blacks were not given a voice is an irrelevancy, since blacks had no genunine voice at all, anywhere in the “Union.”

    Don, your simple assertion that “in regard to the American Civil War Tom, the relevant people were all the American people, North and South, black and white,” is question-begging and gratuitous. The Brits would have given the same answer to the colonists: “in regard to your revolution, Mr. Jefferson, the relevant people are all the people of the British empire, black and white.” After all, blacks had more opportunity for freedom under British rule than under colonial rule.

  • This is a silly rejoinder

    No, it is not. The object of secession was to keep blacks in a state of hereditary subjection that did not apply outside the southern states.

  • “The Brits would have given the same answer to the colonists: “in regard to your revolution, Mr. Jefferson, the relevant people are all the people of the British empire, black and white.” After all, blacks had more opportunity for freedom under British rule than under colonial rule.”

    The Brits made precisely that argument Tom, and it was phony. The British Empire and Great Britain itself still had slavery at the time of the Revolution. Both the Brits and the Americans offered freedom to slaves who would enlist, and several of the Northern states abolished slavery during the War. The Brits on the other hand never indicated that slavery was going to be abolished in the thirteen colonies if they prevailed.

    The clear trend at that time was that slavery was on its way out under the new United States, and most of the slave holding Founding Fathers were on record that slavery was an evil, and that steps should be taken to eliminate it. The contrast with the Confederacy couldn’t be starker.

    As to my point that the the people who were concerned in the Civil War were the entire American people, that is correct. We were one nation prior to the Civil War, and one people. If that nation was to be destroyed that decision needed to be made by the elected representatives of all the people and not by the people of a state or a section of the country.

  • “The clear trend at that time was that slavery was on its way out …” This is quite true, and on both sides of the Atlantic. Slavery per se did not exist in English law, and LCJ Mansfield’s famous 1772 judgement in the case of the slave James Somerset made it clear that only ‘positive law’ could support such an ‘odious’ institution. This did not, of course, apply to the colonies, although the Patriot press in America tried to persuade its readers that it represented another threat to their legislative freedom. Slavery was not finally abolished in British overseas territories until 1834, twenty-seven years after the slave trade was outlawed.

    The Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment who would have opposed slavery in principle, as in fact did Lord Mansfield; but both he and they knew that for both commercial and humanitarian reasons it could not be abolished overnight.

    Regarding secession, the Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond who is First Minister in the Scottish government is threatening to hold a referendum on complete independence for Scotland. Following your analogy, the whole of the UK should be entitled to vote for or against the break-up of the Union. However, the vast majority of UK taxpayers live in England, are tired of subsidizing the Scots and resent the disproportionate political influence they exercise at Westminster. They are likely to vote overwhelmingly for English independence.

  • Saying that technology would make slavery obsolete is not quite so different from saying that free market capitalism would make a totalitarian regime obsolete.

    The latter was the hope for China; apparently the former is Ron Paul’s wishful version of history.

  • BTW, is it true that Abe Lincoln may have been a Catholic? It would be nice to think that the White House was occupied by a Catholic who wasn’t a crook and a serial adulterer.

  • No John there is absolutely no truth to that. Equally untrue are contentions that George Washington was received into the Church prior to his death.

  • Abraham Lincoln, the president, was not Catholic, but he had several cousins who were converts to the Faith, one of whom happened to also be named Abraham Lincoln, and another named Mordecai Lincoln. They lived in western Illinois in a now-vanished settlement named Fountain Green, near present-day Macomb. The more famous Abe Lincoln was acquainted with them and visited them once in a while. I’m guessing that the existence of another “Abraham Lincoln” who WAS Catholic is the source of the confusion.

  • Again, Don, it’s mere ipse dixit to assert that the entire US had to agree before secession could occur. The whole point of the exercize was that the individual state, having sovereignty before joining the union, and never giving up that sovereignty, could re-assert it whenever and for whatever reasons it saw fit.

    That this obvious dictum was precluded by force of arms does not render it invalid.

  • It would be an odd nation Tom that would allow its destruction without the concurrence of the inhabitants of the nation. Your case would rest on much stronger foundation if the Constitution granted the states a right to secede. Tellingly enough, when the Confederate Constitution was being drafted the South Carolina delegates wanted such a provision to be inserted in the new Constitution. This proposal was resoundingly defeated, with only the South Carolina delegates voting for it.

  • But as you well know, Don, the Constitution does not “grant” rights to the states, it simply enunciates those SPECIFIC, ENUMERATED, powers exercized by the federal government. ALL other powers are retained by the states. So the states do not need to have their right to reassume their full sovereignty “granted” to them by the federal government: it’s an inherent power that was never ceded to the federal government.

    The proper constitutional question is: does the constitution specifically enumerate as a delegated power to the federal government the granting of permission to secede?

    It clearly does not.

  • The states had no power to secede prior to joining the Union Tom. They could not retain a power they did not possess. I would further note that all but the original 13 states and Texas were created by the Federal Union. How in the world could those states, created by the Federal government, have a power to withdraw from the government that created them? If the Founding Fathers had wished to grant a power to secede to the states, I assume that it would have been inserted into the text of the Constitution or added by amendment along with the Bill of Rights.

    Here is what the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, thought about secession:

    “TO N. P. TRIST. … MAD. MSS.

    Montpellier, Decr 23, 1832.

    Dr. Sir I have received yours of the 19th, inclosing some of the South Carolina papers. There are in one of them some interesting views of the doctrine of secession; one that had occurred to me, and which for the first time I have seen in print; namely that if one State can at will withdraw from the others, the others can at will withdraw from her, and turn her, nolentem, volentem, out of the union. Until of late, there is not a State that would have abhorred such a doctrine more than South Carolina, or more dreaded an application of it to herself. The same may be said of the doctrine of nullification, which she now preaches as the only faith by which the Union can be saved.

    I partake of the wonder that the men you name should view secession in the light mentioned. The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater fight to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of –98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created. In the Virginia Resolutions and Report the plural number, States, is in every instance used where reference is made to the authority which presided over the Government. As I am now known to have drawn those documents, I may say as I do with a distinct recollection, that the distinction was intentional. It was in fact required by the course of reasoning employed on the occasion. The Kentucky resolutions being less guarded have been more easily perverted. The pretext for the liberty taken with those of Virginia is the word respective, prefixed to the “rights” &c to be secured within the States. Could the abuse of the expression have been foreseen or suspected, the form of it would doubtless have been varied. But what can be more consistent with common sense, than that all having the same rights &c, should unite in contending for the security of them to each.

    It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol. 2,1 with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.

    I know nothing of what is passing at Richmond, more than what is seen in the newspapers. You were right in your foresight of the effect of the passages in the late Proclamation. They have proved a leaven for much fermentation there, and created an alarm against the danger of consolidation, balancing that of disunion. I wish with you the Legislature may not seriously injure itself by assuming the high character of mediator. They will certainly do so if they forget that their real influence will be in the inverse ratio of a boastful interposition of it.

    If you can fix, and will name the day of your arrival at Orange Court House, we will have a horse there for you; and if you have more baggage than can be otherwise brought than on wheels, we will send such a vehicle for it. Such is the state of the roads produced by the wagons hurrying flour to market, that it may be impossible to send our carriage which would answer both purposes.”

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