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June 2, 1865: Civil War Ends

 

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It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

 

With the signing of the articles of surrender in Galveston by Kirby Smith on June 2, 1865, the terms having been agreed to on May 26, 1865, the Civil War was at an end.  This is a good time to give a few thoughts as to what this immense event in American history meant to the nation.

1.  Secession-A temptation for Americans whenever national fortunes grew rough or when it seemed that different sections could not compromise and agree, secession as a mainstream political option was as dead as the Confederacy.

2.  Slavery-The stain of chattel slavery was ended.  As the years have rolled by, it has become fashionable to pooh pooh emancipation and to focus on the terrible disabilities that the freed slaves and their descendants would labor under.  All true and all irrelevant.  Those who lived at the time, both white and black, realized what a vast change the end of slavery made in America.  An institution that had grown up over 250 years, it seemed almost divinely inspired that it ended so swiftly over four years, and at a terrible cost.

3.  National Pride-It is odd that such a blood letting would be a source of pride North and South, but such was the case after the War.  Celebrating the courage of the men who fought, and the genius of the great generals of the conflict, was a common impulse North and South.  Union and Confederate veterans began holding joint reunions in the 1880s.  Fond remembrance of what seemed at the time a national nightmare, and honoring the veterans of the conflict, helped reunify the nation.

4.  The Solid South-A legacy of the Civil War was enmity against the Republican party in most of the South and domination by the Democrat Party.  It was a heavily factionalized Democrat Party, where people who would have been Republicans elsewhere in the country, shoehorned themselves into a party with natural political adversaries.  The Democrat primaries, restricted to whites, were where the real contested elections were conducted.  This feature of American political life was so taken for granted for generations, that insufficient study has been given as to how this warping of the usual course of politics impacted the South and the nation as a whole.

5.  Civil Rights-The ultimate failure of Reconstruction to safeguard the rights of blacks, coupled with Supreme Court decisions that reflected a country concerned with national unity rather than the rights of minorities, set up a situation which held back the economic development of the South, leading to massive black exoduses in the early and mid twentieth centuries to the urban centers of the North.  One of the more dramatic results of the Civil War era, although it is not often thought of as a legacy of the Civil War.

6.  Lincoln-Elevated by his assassination at the moment of victory to the status enjoyed by Washington, Lincoln became an honorary Founding Father, if not a second Father of His Country.  A dark horse candidate who in normal times would never have received a major party nomination for the Presidency, let alone win it twice, Lincoln became the dominant figure of his Age, a true turning point in American history.  What he would have accomplished but for John Wilkes Booth is the great might have been of American history.

7.  The Declaration of Independence-The Civil War forced Americans to fight over the very nature of their country.  In doing so many of them, and especially Lincoln, drew inspiration from the Declaration of Independence.  This rescued that document from becoming a mere relic of the Eighteenth Century, on a par with a tri-corn hat or a powdered wig.  The Declaration once again occupied the center of  American political thought.

8.  Never Again-America has always been a rambunctious place, where civil disturbances are not that unusual.  However we have never repeated the Civil War.  It was a very painful lesson in what happens when elections, speeches and political compromise give way to a resort to arms and the nation has not forgotten it.

9.  Union-As the late Civil War historian Shelby Foote noted, prior to the Civil War it was common to say “The United States are” when referring to the nation.  After the War this changed to “The United States is”.  The Civil War established, beyond question, that the United States is one nation.

10. God-We Americans are an optimistic people and the Civil War came as a vast shock.  Why was God allowing this terrible conflict to afflict a people He had so often blessed?  The wisest among us, including Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln, assumed that the War was a punishment sent by God for national sins.  Lincoln reflected this thought in his Second Inaugural that sums up the Civil War:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

33 Comments

  1. A couple of thoughts:
    ***
    “What he would have accomplished but for John Wilkes Booth is the great might have been of American history.”
    ***
    Like almost every other President elected to a second term — including our first (and best) President — Lincoln’s second term likely would have been something of a disappointment.
    ***
    “… it was common to say ‘The United States are’ … ”
    ***
    The United States STILL “are”. (1) There are 50 sovereign states in a federal system. (2) Grammar matters. (3) We’re fooling ourselves if we buy into the Manifest Destiny nonsense that the United States will always be “one and undivided” forever and ever world without end amen.

  2. “Lincoln’s second term likely would have been something of a disappointment.”

    Quite possibly but perhaps not. Lincoln’s first term had been dominated by War and it would have been interesting to see what he could do in times of Peace.

    “There are 50 sovereign states”

    Rather limited sovereignty, especially considering that most States are creations of the Federal government. I rather suspect that if the Union is ever destroyed, the States will be destroyed either at the same time or soon thereafter. A world without the United States would be a fairly lethal place for smaller polities.

  3. The states created the Union. When delegates signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they were signing on behalf of the states they were representing. Also, the name of the country – United States of America – says it all. The states must exist before they are united.

  4. “most States are creations of the Federal government” and yet the 10th Amendment gives them every right the original signatory states to the Constitution have. And with respect to the newer states, the federal government is just as limited to those express powers granted by the constitution, and no more.

    The saddest legacy of the war was the destruction of the original system of federalism, and the subjection of the states to a federal government that now believed itself supreme, and capable of militarily imposing its will on states if they ever dared to oppose the newly minted federal supremacy. In short, we ceased being a federated system of states and became indeed “one nation” enforced by the bayonet. Some union!

  5. And after independence from Britain, the colonies became free and independent entities. They voluntarily created the union to advance their individual and common goals, but clearly reserved to themselves and their people all sovereignty not expressly delegated to the federal government, their creature.

  6. The saddest legacy of the war was the destruction of the original system of federalism

    An oft-repeated claim that has no basis in fact.

  7. The Union was created at the same time as the colonies proclaimed their independence. They had no separate existence apart from the United States of America as indicated by their being one peace treaty by which Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States of America rather than 13 treaties. As a matter of fact, the Brits asked about this and were told emphatically that they were negotiating with the United States of America and not the separate States.

  8. The United States of America is and always was an “is” whether or not the American public referred to it as such. Before the Constitution was ratified, the Articles of Confederation were in effect and there was a Federal Government at that time as well. Under the Articles, Annapolis, Maryland served as the nation’s capital for a time and the first American President was John Hanson.

    The Federal Government always had powers that the individual States did not. The real usurpation of Federal power from the States was not done by Abe Lincoln, but rather by FDR and his New Deal, 68 years after the end of the Civil War.

    What FDR began continues today in that official Washington continues to grow in influence, in power and in wealth while millions of American have faced economic hardship as a result of policies, regulations and laws enacted in Washington. The subprime mess was engineered by the Democrats in Washington. Obumblercare has come about the same way.

    I believe we in the USA are reaching a tipping point, if not a breaking point. Social Security and Medicare will one day go bankrupt. Obumblercare was designed to bring down countless insurance companies so Washington would have an excuse to do one of two things – create a cartel of large insurers that would pay tribute to the Democrats, just as the big banks now do, or enact single payer, which is a failure everywhere it has been enacted. Laws are ignored and executive orders are issued in violation of those laws.

    In short there will be more cause for rebellion in the near future than there was in the 1860s when the Southern States could not bear to give up slavery.

  9. he real usurpation of Federal power from the States was not done by Abe Lincoln, but rather by FDR and his New Deal, 68 years after the end of the Civil War.

    Very true, Penguins Fan. There were probably several tipping points – the New Deal, the Warren Court, the Great Society – that all pushed the expansion of the federal government.

  10. Wow, quite the revisionism. The colonies clearly considered themselves independent entities, not simply parts of a national state. Hence the need for a convention whereby the states would decide what powers, if any, to cede to the general government.

    Not much need for a constitutional convention and ratification by the states if the states were not fundamentally independent actors with the ability to either enter into a union or not. The creature is not greater than the creator. Simple logic, and historical fact.

    Hence, the convening of the convention for the Articles of Confederation was “Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities, under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils and all our strength, to maintain and defend our common liberties.

    And as the Articles themselves expressed it: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”

    And: “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”

    No, clearly, the colonies, or states, were sovereign, independent states, and entered into a compact for mutual aid and defense. Again, logic dictates that if the federal government only exercises that power expressly delegated to it, that the entity delegating that power, namely the states, possess sovereignty prior to and independent of, the federal government, which is the creation of the states.

    This was the universal understanding of the founders, and I would challenge anyone to produce evidence that any men of the founding generation denied the original sovereignty of the states, or that the federal government somehow co-existed from the beginning as a anything but a creation of convenience of the states which birthed it.

  11. It’s a simple matter of constitutional law that federalism was altered by the war. The 14th amendment, for the first time, permitted the federal government to intrude upon the legal system of the states. It is this amendment which has justified the erosion of state sovereignty as exercised by state legislatures, introducing federal oversight where none existed before.

    It was the victorious Republicans who, according to historian and legal scholar Robert Kaczorowski, in forcing passage of the 14th amendment had declared that “sovereignty resided in the national government and included the primary authority to determine the status and secure the rights of all Americans, white as well as black.”

    Some idea of the original intent of the 14th amendment can be read here: http://www.constitution.org/col/intent_14th.htm, but it is clear that the Republicans desired by the 14th essentially to incorporate the bill of rights as understood by the federal authorities, against the states. This is a sea-change in federalism as originally understood by the framers of the constitution. You may think it’s a good change, or a bad change, but one cannot rationally deny it is a substantial change in the original design of federalism under the constitution.

    No war, no 14th amendment, no 14th amendment, no federal imposition of what federal courts interpret “due process” to mean. Again, simple logical progression of cause and effect.

  12. It’s a simple matter of constitutional law that federalism was altered by the war.

    Well then. I guess I can toss aside years of study, because after all it’s just a simple matter. Duh.

    , but it is clear that the Republicans desired by the 14th essentially to incorporate the bill of rights

    No, it is not clear, and oftentimes adjectives such as “clearly,” “obvious,” and “simply” are used to mask lack of substantive evidence. The incorporation doctrine was not envisioned by the authors of the amendment, but rather 20th Century Supreme Court justices. In fact the contemporary court cases rendered in the immediate aftermath of passage rejected this notion.

    you may think it’s a good change, or a bad change, but one cannot rationally deny it is a substantial change

    I can deny it because it is not a change, at least not as envisioned by the framers of the amendment. That later Courts misinterpreted the 14th Amendment is not a fault of the drafters, unless of course you want to blame the Framers of the original Constitution for the myriad ways that their words would be used by later courts.

    Again, simple logical progression of cause and effect.

    Again, simply saying “simple” and words to that effect are not an argument.

  13. Paul, while I normally would defer to your superior knowledge on the subject matter, I am going to have to concur with my fellow lawyer Tom (it’s not just PhDs who study this stuff 😉 ) in his assessment that the 14th Amendment, by its very nature, upset the original federalist system. The Shelby Foote quote that Don often cites favorably, including above, is an acknowledgment of the paradigm shift wrought by the Civil War. The constituent sovereignty in whom all powers not delegated reside, as a result of the War, shifted from “the states and the people” (see, e.g. 10th Amendment) to being a federal government “of the people, by the people, for the people”. The effect of the 14th Amendment was to make the federal government the surety of the rights of the people, when that had been the purview of the states.

  14. Again, though, the 14th Amendment was not designed to incorporate the Bill of Rights. Many of the ill effects of the amendment were the result of over-zealous interpretation by the courts. Any analysis of the US history between the Civil War and roughly the New Deal would show that the federalist apple-cart had not been upset as thoroughly as is often claimed.

  15. The link I provided cites many of the drafters of the 14th as to the intended meaning and interpretation of the 14th Amendment. You will note, perhaps, that incorporation of the Bill of Rights was specifically and explicitly in their minds. Incorporation was not a later judicial invention, but was intended by the authors of the 14th.

    I’m tempted to say it’s simple and clear, because it is, but those characterizations apparently offend people.

  16. The surprising thing is that the federal courts were so timid about taking up the cudgel against the states that the Republicans gave them via the 14th Amendment. That surprising fact, I think, explains why some people mistakenly conclude that incorporation was a much later judicial invention–because the courts didn’t seize upon it in earnest until the early 20th century. But the victorious Republicans were not shy about the meaning of their Amendment.

  17. I’m tempted to say it’s simple and clear, because it is, but those characterizations apparently offend people.

    It’s not a matter of offense Tom, it’s a matter of conveying opinions with ample supportive evidence and not relying on lazy adjectives to pretend that the matter is not without debate. Citing one online article as proof of an assertion doesn’t make you an expert on the matter.

  18. “The colonies clearly considered themselves independent entities, not simply parts of a national state. Hence the need for a convention whereby the states would decide what powers, if any, to cede to the general government.”

    You mistake the Union for the mode of governing the Union. The Union existed prior to the Articles of Confederation. The 13 original colonies never had independent status except as part of the United States.

    “Not much need for a constitutional convention and ratification by the states if the states were not fundamentally independent actors with the ability to either enter into a union or not.”

    Once again you mistake the Union for the mode of governing it. At the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 the Union was governed by the Articles of Confederation.

    “Hence, the convening of the convention for the Articles of Confederation”

    Because it was proposed by the Continental Congress as the governing instrument of the pre-existent Union.

    “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”

    Yep, the same Articles of Confederation which declared the Union perpetual.

    “No, clearly, the colonies, or states, were sovereign, independent states”

    Note to non-lawyers. Usually when lawyers say “clearly” what follows is opinion. The colonies were never independent states but rather part of the United States of America created by the Continental Congress by the Declaration of Independence. Hence a common flag, a regular army, and speaking with one voice in diplomacy with foreign states. The United States of America was born in the stress of war. The country existed first, with the details of government to be worked out later.

    From General Washington’s circular to the state governors in 1783:

    “Such is our situation, and such are our prospects: but notwithstanding the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us, notwithstanding happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize the occasion and make it our own; yet, it appears to me there is an option still left to the United States of America, that it is in their choice, and depends upon their conduct, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptable and miserable as a Nation; This is the time of their political probation, this is the moment when the eyes of the whole World are turned upon them, this is the moment to establish or ruin their national Character forever, this is the favorable moment to give such a tone to our Federal Government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution, or this may be the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the Confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one State against another to prevent their growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes. For, according to the system of Policy the States shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall, and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn Millions be involved.

    With this conviction of the importance of the present Crisis, silence in me would be a crime; I will therefore speak to your Excellency, the language of freedom and of sincerity, without disguise; I am aware, however, that those who differ from me in political sentiment, may perhaps remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty, and they may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is alone the result of the purest intention, but the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives, the part I have hitherto acted in life, the determination I have formed, of not taking any share in public business hereafter, the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of War, the benefits of a wise and liberal Government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my Countrymen, that I could have no sinister views in delivering with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this Address.

    There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:

    1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.

    2dly. A Sacred regard to Public Justice.

    3dly. The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and

    4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.”

  19. Even if one concedes the incorporation doctrine (which I don’t), it does not follow that the federalist form of governance was undermined by the war. The federal government did not become an intrusive beast until the progressive era, as it slowly accumulated power from the New Deal until today. While the 14th amendment has been used as a cudgel, arguably the commerce clause has been a greater thorn in the side of federalism. The most pernicious of the anti-federalist cases, Wickard v. Filburn, was a decision based on an extraordinarily expansive reading of the commerce clause. Further, even in cases based on the 14th Amendment, it did not follow that the courts had to rule in a manner inconsistent with federalist principles.

    Blaming the expansive growth of the federal leviathan on the outcome of the Civil War and passage of the 14th Amendment is akin to blaming obesity on consumption of soft drinks. It didn’t help the current condition, but you’re missing some larger factors.

  20. PZ… I never claimed to be an expert. Are you? I have spent many years reading and studying about these issues, as I suspect you have as well. The article I cited is important because it gives just the evidentiary support you ask for. I said that the original intent of the framers of the 14th was that it incorporate the Bill of Rights against the states. I supplied source material for that claim. Your response is ad hominem about my use of adjectives and “citing an online article.” Given the venue, I don’t know what other support I can offer, since we can’t walk down to the research library and access original sources together.

    It seems you’re simply unwilling to engage my evidence. That’s fine, but the nit-picking ad hominem does not increase your credibility.

    I never claimed that the civil war was responsible for later abuses of the 20th century. I merely said it led to changes that fundamentally altered the balance of constitutional power vis-a-vis federalism. So I respectfully reject your attempt to mischaracterize my claim. The adoption of the 14th Amendment at the hands of the radical Republicans did constitute a fundamental change in the previous understanding of federalism.

    While these Republicans may not have intended the most elastic use of this Amendment made in recent years, it remains that they are responsible for this fundamental alteration, without which the later abuses could not have happened, at least insofar as they rely on the 14th Amendment.

  21. Don, there is no distinction between “union” and “mode of government.” The “union” only existed when the states gathered to decide what “mode of government” would allow for a “union” to exist in the first place. If any colony or colony had decided against union, there would be no law, no constitution, no treaty, no authority anywhere that would compel them to sign on to the Articles. They would simply exist, as all the states did, as their own, independent, sovereign entities.

    The Articles of Confederation (the first formal charter of a national government) were adopted November 15, 1777.

    The Colonies declared independence on July 4, 1776.

    For over a year, the colonies therefore existed as independent states without reference to a federal government.

    No matter that they declared independence together. The Continental Congress certainly never dreamed of acting as a national government, but as a mere gathering of “free and independent states,” in the plural, note.

    “Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States [again, note the use of the plural “states”], that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

    Hmmm, sounds an awful lot like what the southern states said in reference to the Union.

  22. nit-picking ad hominem does not increase your credibility.

    You used ad-hominem twice, but I did not engage in ad hominem – I merely stated that the evidence you supplied was not sufficient to back up the claim you made. We are at an impasse. But speaking of nit picking.

    I never claimed that the civil war was responsible for later abuses of the 20th century. I merely said it led to changes that fundamentally altered the balance of constitutional power vis-a-vis federalism.

    Now who’s picking nits? If the argument is that the Civil War and the amendments that sprung from it fundamentally altered the balance of power, it would seem to follow that this is where to lay the blame for the later abuses of the 20th century.

    But let’s forget that for the moment. If the claim is that these changes fundamentally altered the balance of power, even a careful reconstruction of the motivations behind the 14th amendment wouldn’t be enough. It seems strange to me to claim that the post Civil War era created a fundamental change when the historical evidence – based on the legislation, political culture, court cases, etc. show little proof that such a fundamental change occurred.

    Yes, history is slow to develop and we wouldn’t have expected dramatic changes overnight, I’ll grant you that. Yet it took more than two post-war generations for the American constitutional system to develop cracks (for lack of a better way of phrasing it). Federal-state relationships remained basically the same until then.

    Now again I’ll grant that your point is a bit finer, perhaps even philosophical – the 14th Amendment laid the groundwork by inherently altering the nature of our system. It would be difficult to deny that the civil war sparked a revolution – perhaps more of a revolution than the “American Revolution.” We became something more of a nationalistic entity. That I cannot deny. What I will continue to deny, though is that the rank and file of the Republican party envisioned a radical alteration of the federal-state relationship, and that the 14th amendment is even the primary cause of the later alteration.

    I apologize for being curt in previous replies, and I still feel that I haven’t (and honestly can’t due to time constraints) engage your points more thoroughly than I have.

  23. And while the Articles refer to a “perpetual union” which might have ramifications for withdrawing from the Union, the Constitution did not refer to a “perpetual union.” Presumably the men who drafted the Constitution were aware of the phrase and deliberately chose to exclude it.

  24. PZ, perhaps it is an impasse. I would say my view is that the civil war and the forced adoption of the 14th Amendment were the remote cause of the later 19th and early 20th century judicial decisions that we both decry; the proximate cause of these decisions is something else entirely.

    I too, apologize for any lack of charity in my tone or comments.

  25. “Don, there is no distinction between “union” and “mode of government.””

    Of course there is as the Union has had three governments: Continental Congress, Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

    “If any colony or colony had decided against union, there would be no law, no constitution, no treaty, no authority anywhere that would compel them to sign on to the Articles.”

    Actually there were quite a few Americans who were against the Union. We call them Tories and they called themselves Loyalists. They were beaten by the use of military force.

    “For over a year, the colonies therefore existed as independent states without reference to a federal government.”

    Wrong. The Continental Congress acted as the Federal government, among other things creating an army, a navy, issuing currency and carrying on foreign relations.

    “The Continental Congress certainly never dreamed of acting as a national government, but as a mere gathering of “free and independent states,” in the plural, note.”

    It didn’t dream of acting as a national government, it acted as a national government. Recognizing the need for a more efficient and stronger Federal government it sent the Articles of Confederation to the States.

    “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled do , in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these states, reject and renounce the allegiance and subjection to the kinds of Great Britain and all others whe may herafter claim by, through, or under them; we utterly dissolve and break off all political connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us and the people or parliament of Great Britain; and finally we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independent states, and that as free and independent states they shall herafter have [full] power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”

    All of which powers were only implemented by the United States of America.

  26. “Presumably the men who drafted the Constitution were aware of the phrase and deliberately chose to exclude it.”

    No, they didn’t rename the country either. They didn’t repeat what the Articles of Confederation had already asserted.

  27. PZ – while it’s not fair to compare different historical periods – progressivism vs 1840’s economic policy, Lincoln was in favor of the “American System” as termed by his early career Whig benefactors. And it does bear some resemblance to what came to be progressivism. Of course this goes back longer than Lincoln. Without getting Hegelian/Marxian regarding forces of history, there just does seem to be something in the air of for the governmentally powerful that makes them want to take money from people and do “good” with it. The rise of the idea of the “invisible hand” was a tremendous brake on that powerful notion. So again, these two forces were not as fully developed in the time of Lincoln as they came to be during the 20th century, but it does seem pretty safe to say that he came down on the side of taking the money and having the government do the “good”. What he would have made out of where we went with it is a good question.

  28. “of taking the money and having the government do the “good”.”

    Completely antithetical to Lincoln’s view. He wanted internal improvements to speed the economic development of the country. He was in no way, shape and form in favor of a proto welfare state. If anything he would have been much closer to those who advocated a hand’s off attitude towards the economy, as indicated by the moderate stance he took on a protective tariff. A good summary of Lincoln’s economic views:

    “Lincoln’s political and economic philosophy was framed by what historian Gabor Boritt has called the “right to rise.” 24 Lincoln scholar Frank Coburn noted: “Throughout his political career, Abraham Lincoln supported a view that government should support a policy of universal economic opportunity – a right to rise. As an Illinois state politician, his positions on internal improvements, state banks, and tariffs were drawn from adaptations of his doctrine. Lincoln expanded this tenet during the 1850s as the basis for his opposition to slavery by asserting that as members of humanity, slaves, too, deserved an equal opportunity to succeed.”25 Lincoln scholar Harry V. Jaffa observed: “Lincoln reduced the essence of slavery to the formula, ‘You work, I’ll eat.’”26 Mr. Lincoln reverenced work – even when he joked about it. As President, he wrote: “The lady — bearer of this — says she has two sons who want to work. Set them at it, if possible. Wanting to work is so rare a merit, that should be encouraged.”27”

    http://abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/abraham-lincolns-values-and-philosophy/

  29. “The Declaration of Independence was the fundamental act of union for these states”
    Thomas Jefferson, 1825 “Writings” p.479

    The 1878 revision of the U.S. Code lists the Declaration as the first among America’s organic laws, and every enabling act since the Civil War for the admission of a new state into the Union included a statutory requirement that the constitution of the new state “shall not be repugnant to the Declaration of Independence.”
    Cox, “Four Pillars of Constitutionalism: The Organic Laws of the U.S.”

    The Articles of Confederation spoke of “perpetual union” in it’s title. The U.S. Constitution in the preamble says “In order to form a more perfect union”. Can a thing become more perfect, if it becomes more mutable or ephemeral?

  30. Again, no Continental Congress or Articles or Constitution without the preexisting possessors of sovereignty, the colonies, or states.

    Tories were not “states,” they were individuals. If the union somehow magically coexisted with the Colonies, there would have been no need to get the states to ratify the Articles.

    The Continental Congress did exercise some very limited united functions; of course, it do so only after it had been authorized to do by the states that convened it! The colonies (states) could have just as easily decided not to convene a congress, and attempted to conduct the rebellion on their own. They decided that obviously a cooperative effort would be more successful.

    If the states created the Continental Congress, they are a fortiori free and independent in the first instance.

    Again, no evidence from the founders could be produced to support the notion that the states were in any way bound to enter into these original compacts. Georgia, in fact, did not participate in the first Continental Congress, and yet they were not invaded or compelled to come into the compact.

    Massachusetts, for example, ratified the constitution in these terms:

    entering into an explicit and solemn compact with each other, by assenting to and ratifying a new Constitution, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, — do, in the name and in behalf of the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, assent to and ratify the said Constitution for the United States of America.

    Virginia’s adoption declaration is typical also:

    WE the Delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, DO in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will…

    Every state voted for the constitution in similar terms, expressly stating that they were granting the federal government certain specific and enumerated powers that they possess, in order to form a more perfect union, as the saying goes.

    Only a sovereign entity could logically cede a portion of its sovereignty. Each state ratifying the constitution ceded some of its already existing sovereignty. That the states had ratification conventions is itself proof that no state had to accept the constitution. They did so voluntarily. No “superior” government required or compelled them to do so. In point of fact, the adoption of the Bill of Rights at the insistence of some of the ratifying states is further proof that the states decided whether, and what kind of, federal government there would be.

  31. Why should Tom “give it up”? He has a valid argument. Indeed, a strong one. Disagree with it, if you will (as Don has done), but it’s not as though Tom’s view is wholly without merit so that he must “give up” and accept the opposing viewpoint as the only valid one.
    ***
    I happen to believe that Don and Tom are, in some respects, both right. Don is correct that the 13 colonies intended to form a union, with the Declaration referring to the “United States” and the Articles of Confederation referencing a “perpetual union”. But Tom is absolutely correct in arguing that, at each step — Declaration, Articles, Constitution, SOVEREIGN colonies / states had to approve the bargain. Had any one of those 13 governments — say, Rhode Island, South Carolina, or Georgia — decided to disapprove, vote “NO”, and walk away, they would have been completely free to do so. There was nothing binding them to agree to a union of ANY sort.

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