The Former Confederacy

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by KenH, Dec 21, 2003.

  1. KenH

    KenH
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    The Former Confederacy

    December 4, 2003

    An extremely bright high-school student recently asked my advice about a few points concerning the U.S. Constitution. At 15, he was raising questions that didn’t occur to me until I was well into middle age. Maybe, I thought, this lad should be advising me!

    But, accepting the role of wise elder in which he had cast me, I recommended a short curriculum, which I now offer to anyone who wants a corrective to the false history Americans are taught in government (as well as most private) schools. It may look simple, but I promise you’ll find it challenging.

    First, three official documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution (with the Bill of Rights and the Preamble to them). Learn them thoroughly, until you see how closely the Constitution resembles the Articles and how both documents presuppose the Declaration.

    Second, the debates over the ratification of the Constitution. This means The Federalist Papers, but also a generous sampling of the anti-Federalist writings, of which there are many collections in print. (Three are listed on the Links of this website.)

    Third, Thomas Jefferson’s 1798 Kentucky Resolutions. These are brief but remarkably logical and incisive. They tell you how the author of the Declaration understood the Constitution. No document in American history has been more undeservedly neglected.

    Finally, the most challenging of all: Jefferson Davis’s Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. You needn’t read all 1,200 pages, but you should master the 100 or so pages making the case for a state’s constitutional right to withdraw from the Union. You may pass over Davis’s defense of slavery, which is incidental: his argument for the right of secession applies in principle to every state, not just the Southern states.

    If cogent, this means that the U.S. Government abandoned constitutional government long ago. It also means that, say, Massachusetts and Hawaii still have the same right to withdraw from the Union that Virginia claimed in 1861.

    You may be surprised to learn that Washington, Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers took the right of secession for granted. Probably not one American in a thousand is aware of this today. But it was inherent in the Declaration’s proposition that the original colonies “are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States.”

    This is what Abraham Lincoln actually denied when he said that no state could leave the Union. Unlike Lincoln, Davis wasn’t even a lawyer; yet his grasp of law and history was far wider and deeper than Lincoln’s.

    After the Confederacy was conquered, Davis was arrested and held in solitary confinement for two years on a charge of treason. But in the end the government dropped the charge and released him, having been warned by its own lawyers that Davis, defending himself in court, might well win acquittal by making a powerful case for secession — and thereby dealing a terrific blow to Union war propaganda. The intended show trial might have backfired — with Davis summoning the Founding Fathers themselves as his star witnesses!

    It was a prudent decision. To this day, Union propaganda passes for objective history. But in fact so many Northerners agreed with the South — and with the Founding Fathers — that Lincoln had found it necessary to suspend the freedom of speech, the free press, and the ordinary rights of accused persons to habeas corpus and a jury trial. Dissent became a crime, and truth itself a fugitive.

    But Lincoln’s crackdown — so comprehensive that the McCarthy era can’t remotely compare with it — succeeded. The North was deeply divided about his war, but effective criticism and opposition were crushed. Lincoln won reelection, the war, and a historical reputation for midwifing “a new birth of freedom.”

    The long-term result has been the eclipse of the original understanding of the Union as a voluntary “confederacy” of sovereign states. Today that idea is regarded as a merely regional doctrine of the South. It was not. It was an idea once agreed on by virtually all Americans. Even Lincoln himself sometimes spoke of the Union as “this confederacy.”

    It’s startling to see how often the United States were called a “confederacy” in the speeches and letters of presidents before Lincoln. His supreme achievement may be a feat of historical obliteration: he consigned America’s original self-understanding, perhaps irrecoverably, to the Memory Hole.

    Joseph Sobran

    - www.sobran.com/columns/2003/031204.shtml
     
  2. Major B

    Major B
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    This is a fascinating bit of history to study. I teach on it every year. The questions are boundless. What if John Marshall had not become chief justice, or if his slight of hand in Marbury had been recognized for what it was, the establishing of SCOTUS as the constitutional referee? What if Jefferson had obeyed his own strict consitutionalism and not bought the Louisiana Purchase? What if the confederacy had succeeded? Most scholars think there would have been five or six or more sovereign states where the US is now; constantly warring with one another. There would have been no superpower to twice rescue Europe or to fight the Cold War, What if Seward had not bought Alaska? Imagine, oh, ye cold warriors, the Soviet hordes camped out on the Canadian border!

    Manifest destiny did not just include a coast-to-coast American empire, it included a Federal government adequate to rule all of it and keep it together.
     
  3. KenH

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    Unfortunately, our federal government is far larger and stronger and more intrusive than that, much to the chagrin of those of us who care about our God-given rights. :(
     
  4. Major B

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    Agreed, but there is a lot of distance between a confederacy (inherently weak and incapable of survival, let alone an expansion) and the all-powerful fed. The trick is to balance the equation.
     
  5. KenH

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    The trick was for the Confederacy to have won. I am rather confident that if the two countries had remained separate that they would have cooperated in foreign policy matters such as World War I and II.

    Once slavery eventually ended for economic reasons, the two countries might have even reunited and we might today have a country that pretty much followed the constitution instead of the aconstitutional country that we have today.
     
  6. Major B

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    Well, several excellent books have been written about this. McKinley Cantor's book from the '60s saw it the way you do. Others think that secession would have been catching, and they saw the North, the South, Texas and the West all being separate countries, with the potential for balkanization. I lean to the latter idea. Certainly, the European powers would have used a southern victory as an opportunity for more adventures like Napoleon III's ill-fated Mexican adventure, perhaps with more success. We'll never know.

    Once Justice Marshall started down the road of "a living constitution," the path was pretty well set.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    The Articles of Confederation (and President GRIFFIN, btw) was an extremely weak federal government, dependent on the sovereign states.

    Interesting history is the decision to meet and "tweak" (my word, but the idea of minor revisions to make a good document better) the Articles of Confederation. Everyone went with that idea and authority from their state to act.

    THEN THE BLOODLESS COUP of the strong Federalists. They canned the Articles of Confederation and came up with a new (fatally flawed imho) document, the Constitution of the United States IN America.

    Won the war, lost the peace. And the states have suffered for 200+ years.
     
  8. Major B

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    The Federalists had the agenda of canning the Articles before they came. When Madison arrived, he had the Virginia Plan (about 70% of which made it into the constitution) in his briefcase. The Society of the Cinncinnati, made up of the officers of the Continental Army (the professionals, not the militias) had agitated for the convention because they saw that the Articles needed a lot more than tweaking, and they were afraid we would lose what had been fought for.

    Confederacies are inherently weak, and without a strong unifying factor (like the war), they tend not to survive. Imho, the constitution is fine; it is what courts have done to it that is weak. By the way, as I said in an earlier post, the Constitution did not make SCOTUS the referee, John Marshall did, and all those good states' rights guys in power at the time let him get away with it.
     
  9. paidagogos

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    DOC! WE AGREE! The best government is local government because it is the closest to the people and most responsive to their will and needs. Furthermore, a weak Federal gov't is good because it is limited to the common good and defense of the several states comprising it.

    Please consider Jefferson Davis's Inaugural Address as the Provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, February 18, 1861.

    Gentlemen of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, friends and fellow citizens:

    Called to the difficult and responsible station of Chief Executive of the Provisional Government which you have instituted, I approach the discharge of the duties assigned to me with an humble distrust of my abilities, but with a sustaining confidence in the wisdom of those who are to guide and to aid me in the administration of public affairs, and an abiding faith in the virtue and patriotism of the people.

    Looking forward to the speedy establishment of a permanent government to take the place of this, and which by its greater moral and physical power will be better able to combat with the many difficulties which arise from the conflicting interests of separate nations, I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career as a Confederacy may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence which we have asserted, and, with the blessing of Providence, intend to maintain. Our present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established .

    The declared purpose of the compact of Union from which we have withdrawn was "to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;" and when, in the judgment of the sovereign States now composing this Confederacy, it had been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and had ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot-box declared that so far as they were concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist. In this they merely asserted a right which the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had defined to be inalienable; of the time and occasion for its exercise, they, as sovereigns, were the final judges, each for itself. The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit. The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, and which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognize in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, the rights of
    person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through whom they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.

    Sustained by the consciousness that the transition from the former Union to the present Confederacy has not proceeded from a disregard on our part of just obligations, or any failure to perform every constitutional duty, moved b! no interest or passion to invade the rights of others, anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with all nations, if we may not hope to avoid war, we may at least expect that posterity will acquit us of having needlessly engaged in it. Doubly justified by the absence of wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others, there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any measures of defense which honor and security may require.

    An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest, and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain, by the final arbitrage of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth. We have entered upon the career of independence, and it must be inflexibly pursued. Through many years of controversy with our late associates, the Northern States, we have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility, and to obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled. As a necessity, not a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separation; and henceforth our energies must he directed to the conduct of our own affairs, and the perpetuity of the Confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled. But, if this be denied to us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed, it will but remain for us, with firm resolve, to appeal to arms and invoke the blessings of Providence on a just cause.

    As a consequence of our new condition and with a view to meet anticipated wants, it will be necessary to provide for the speedy and efficient organization of branches of the executive department, having special charge of foreign intercourse, finance, military affairs, and the postal service.

    For purposes of defense, the Confederate States may, under ordinary circumstances, rely mainly upon their militia, but it is deemed advisable, in the present condition of affairs, that there should be a well-instructed and disciplined army, more numerous than would usually be required on a peace establishment. I also suggest that for the protection of our harbors and commerce on the high seas a navy adapted to those objects will be required. These necessities have doubtless engaged the attention of Congress.

    With a Constitution differing only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from the sectional conflicts which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare it is not unreasonable to expect that States from which we have recently parted may seek to unite their fortunes with ours under the government which we have instituted. For this your Constitution makes adequate provision; but beyond this, if I mistake not the judgment and will of the people, a reunion with the States from which we have separated is neither practicable nor desirable. To increase the power, develop the resources, and promote the happiness of a confederacy, it is requisite that there should be so much of homogeneity that the welfare of every portion shall be the aim of the whole. Where this does not exist, antagonisms are engendered which must and should result in separation.

    Actuated solely by the desire to preserve our own rights and promote our own welfare, the separation of the Confederate States has been marked by no aggression upon others and followed by no domestic convulsion. Our industrial pursuits have received no check. The cultivation of our fields has progressed as heretofore, and even should we be involved in war there would be no considerable diminution in the production of the staples which have constituted our exports and in which the commercial world has an interest scarcely less than our own. This common interest of the producer and consumer can only be interrupted by an exterior force which should obstruct its transmission to foreign markets-a course of conduct which would be as unjust toward us as it would be detrimental to manufacturing and commercial interests abroad. Should reason guide the action of the Government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern States included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but otherwise a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the suffering of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors. In the meantime there will remain to us, besides the ordinary means before suggested, the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy.

    Experience in public stations, of subordinate grade to this which your kindness has conferred, has taught me that care and toil and disappointment are the price of official elevation. You will see many errors to forgive, many deficiencies to tolerate, but you shall not find in me either a want of zeal or fidelity to the cause that is to me highest in hope and of most enduring affection. Your generosity has bestowed upon me an undeserved distinction, one which I neither sought nor desired. Upon the continuance of that sentiment and upon your wisdom and patriotism I rely to direct and support me in the performance of the duty required at my hands.

    We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of our Government. The Constitution formed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States, in their exposition of it, and in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning.

    Thus instructed as to the just interpretation of the instrument, and ever remembering that all offices are but trusts held for the people, and that delegated powers are to be strictly construed, I will hope, by due diligence in the performance of my duties, though I may disappoint your expectations, yet to retain, when retiring, something of the good will and confidence which welcome my entrance into office.

    It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole-where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, they cannot long prevent the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice, and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by his blessing, they were able to vindicate, establish and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor, ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.


    Finally, consider the following quote from Robert E. Lee:

    "Everyone should do all in his power to collect and disseminate the truth, in hope that truth may find a place in history and descend to posterity. History is not the relating of campaigns, and battles, and generals or other individuals, but that which shows principles. The principles for which the South contended were government by the people, that is, government by consent of the governed, government limited and local, free of consolidated power. Those principles justified the South's struggle." -- ROBERT E. LEE

    Deo Vindice
     
  10. Groves1611

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    Don't take this to be "sacreligious"...but,
    God Bless Robert E. Lee!
    He also said, "It is well that war is to terrible, otherwise we should grow to fond of it."
     
  11. Dr. Bob

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    http://users.erols.com/kfraser/confederate/songs/godsave.html

    Stirring words and midi tune to the great National Anthem of Our Blessed Confederacy

    GOD SAVE THE SOUTH
    Words by Earnest Halpin
    Music by Charles W.A. Ellerbrock

    God save the South, God save the South,
    Her altars and firesides, God save the South!
    Now that the war is nigh, now that we arm to die,
    Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"
    Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"

    God be our shield, at home or afield,
    Stretch Thine arm over us, strengthen and save.
    What tho' they're three to one, forward each sire and son,
    Strike till the war is won, strike to the grave!
    Strike till the war is won, strike to the grave!

    God made the right stronger than might,
    Millions would trample us down in their pride.
    Lay Thou their legions low, roll back the ruthless foe,
    Let the proud spoiler know God's on our side.
    Let the proud spoiler know God's on our side.

    Hark honor's call, summoning all.
    Summoning all of us unto the strife.
    Sons of the South, awake! Strike till the brand shall break,
    Strike for dear Honor's sake, Freedom and Life!
    Strike for dear Honor's sake, Freedom and Life!

    Rebels before, our fathers of yore.
    Rebel's the righteous name Washington bore.
    Why, then, be ours the same, the name that he snatched from shame,
    Making it first in fame, foremost in war.
    Making it first in fame, foremost in war.

    War to the hilt, theirs be the guilt,
    Who fetter the free man to ransom the slave.
    Up then, and undismay'd, sheathe not the battle blade,
    Till the last foe is laid low in the grave!
    Till the last foe is laid low in the grave!

    God save the South, God save the South,
    Dry the dim eyes that now follow our path.
    Still let the light feet rove safe through the orange grove,
    Still keep the land we love safe from Thy wrath.
    Still keep the land we love safe from Thy wrath.

    God save the South, God save the South,
    Her altars and firesides, God save the South!
    For the great war is nigh, and we will win or die,
    Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"
    Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"
     
  12. KenH

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  13. Daisy

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    Battle Cry of Freedom

    Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys
    Rally once again,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
    We will rally from the hillside
    We'll gather from the plains,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    The Union forever!
    Hurrah boys hurrah!
    Down with the traitor, up with the star,
    While we rally round the flag, boys
    Rally once again
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    We are springing to the call
    For three hundred thousand more,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
    And we'll fill the vacant ranks
    Of our brothers gone before,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    The Union forever!
    Hurrah boys hurrah!
    Down with the traitor, up with the star,
    While we rally round the flag, boys
    Rally once again
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    We will welcome to our numbers
    The loyal, true and brave,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
    And although they may be poor
    Not a man shall be a slave,
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    The Union forever!
    Hurrah boys hurrah!
    Down with the traitor, up with the star,
    While we rally round the flag, boys
    Rally once again
    Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

    link
     
  14. KenH

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    THE BONNIE BLUE FLAG
    Lyrics by Harry Macarthy (d. 1880)

    We are a band of brothers
    And native to the soil,
    Fighting for the property
    We gained by honest toil;
    And when our rights were threatened,
    The cry rose near and far--
    "Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star!"

    CHORUS: Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.

    As long as the Union
    Was faithful to her trust,
    Like friends and like brothers
    Both kind were we and just;
    But now, when Northern treachery
    Attempts our rights to mar,
    We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.--CHORUS

    First gallant South Carolina
    Nobly made the stand,
    Then came Alabama,
    Who took her by the hand.
    Next quickly Mississippi,
    Georgia and Florida
    All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.--CHORUS

    Ye men of valor, gather round
    The banner of the right;
    Texas and fair Louisiana
    Join us in the fight.
    Davis, our loved president,
    And Stephens statesman are;
    Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.--CHORUS

    And here's to old Virginia--
    The Old Dominion State--
    Who with the young Confederacy
    At length has linked her fate;
    Impelled by her example,
    Now other states prepare
    To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.--CHORUS

    Then cheer, boys, cheer;
    Raise the joyous shout,
    For Arkansas and North Carolina
    Now have both gone out;
    And let another rousing cheer
    For Tennessee be given,
    The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag
    Has grown to be eleven.--CHORUS

    Then here's to our Confederacy,
    Strong are we and brave;
    Like patriots of old we'll fight
    Our heritage to save.
    And rather than submit to shame,
    To die we would prefer;
    So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag
    That bears a single star.--CHORUS
     

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