Lesser Known Historical Excerpts Relevant to The
War for Southern Independence
(a.k.a. The American Civil War)
Below are but a few excerpts from history that reveal that the war between
the United States of America and the Confederate States of America was
not a battle of good versus evil, or even a true civil war. The South did
not intend to take control of the United States government, but to peacefully
form their own sovereign nation. The facts reveal the shallow, one-sided,
sound-bite "history" and stereotypes of the Antebellum South, the Confederacy,
and the War that most of us have been taught. It was, in fact, a war between
two nations, the South having declared her independence from the North
just as the thirteen American Colonies had done from England, and Texas
did from Mexico. The right of a State to secede from the Union had been
widely assumed, though untested, in both the North and South, from the
time the Constitution was written and ratified, until South Carolina
took that bold step on December 20, 1860.
We must look into history to find the true roots of that tragic War.
Care must be taken to draw a distinction between the causes of the secession
of the Southern States, and the reasons why war broke out between the North
and South. History reveals the likelihood of a great conflict between the
North and South – two distinct peoples and cultures. Many of the differences
between the North and South coalesced in the issues of sectional political
struggles for power in Congress, Federal encroachment on the rights reserved
and retained by the States, differing regional economic interests, regional
cultural differences, the moral dilemma of slavery, and the regional effects
of federal tariffs. It all came to a head as political power shifted in
Congress and then in the Presidency. The South, feeling her back was against
the wall, declared herself to be an independent nation, just as the Founding
Fathers had done as they broke away from England, and the Texans had done
when they broke away from Mexico.
Unfortunately, the topic of slavery has served as a red herring to distract
from the fundamental reasons for the conflict between the North and South
that led to secession and war. Slavery, in and of itself, was not the reason
for secession nor the cause of the War for Southern Independence. Though
a major point of contention, slavery was but one of the differentiating
factors between the agrarian economy and culture of the South, and the
increasingly industrial economy and culture of the North. The citizens
of the northern States were not willing to fight and die to end slavery,
nor did they do so. Historically and constitutionally each State had widely
and historically acknowledged sole jurisdiction within its own borders
over slavery and other issues reserved by them as guaranteed by the Ninth
and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. While slavery was legal
in the Confederate States of America for 4 years (1861-1865), slavery was
legal in the United States of America for 89 years (1776-1865). In historical
context, until their freedom was codified in the Thirteenth Amendment
to the Constitution, slaves were legally held to be little more
than property and did not enjoy the status of citizen, whether North or
South. But as economist, professor, author, and columnist Walter E. Williams
wrote in his article What Led to the Civil War?, "the only good
coming from the War Between the States was the abolition of slavery."
Yet, does the existence, practice and acceptance of slavery in 1776
America nullify the honor and valor associated with the spilling of Patriot
blood in the struggle for independence from our mother country? Likewise,
does the existence, practice and acceptance of slavery in 1830's Texas
strip the honor and valor from those Texans who died at Goliad and at the
Alamo as they fought for independence from Mexico? Did the words and sentiments
expressed in the Declaration of Independence no longer apply to
people in the several States of the United States once the Constitution
was ratified? Are these struggles for independence any less legitimate
because political unions were torn apart? Nor should the South be judged
any differently for its own struggle for independence in 1861-65.
Note: I am gradually integrating the source references into this
document using the initials of the author's name to point to their work.
According to the Declaration of Independence, political unions are
not sacrosanct. Truly precious is liberty and government instituted by
the people that remains under the consent of the people.
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station
to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent
respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the
causes which impel them to the separation... That to secure these rights,
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive
of these ends, it is the right of the people to altar or to abolish it,
and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their safety and happiness" (The Declaration of Independence,
July 4, 1776).
"The Declaration was the outcome of prolonged discussion, and of hopelessness
in resisting arbitrary measures, while in union with the mother country.
When no other course was compatible with self-respect, the pressure of
liberty compelled the tearing asunder of the ties of allegiance and union,
and Virginia and Massachusetts went hand in hand in leading the rupture"
(JLMC p. 33).
The members of the Second Continental Congress were not members of a governing
body, but were delegates and ambassadors sent by governors and legislatures
of the thirteen States, independent States that tenaciously asserted and
guarded their respective sovereignty (WEW p. 232; JLMC p. 64-65, 68-82).
John Adams, Massachusetts delegate to the Second Continental Congress,
wrote to his wife of the stark differences between the two peoples of the
Northern and Southern colonies, and that the proposed union could not be
held together "without the utmost caution on both sides" (JRK p. 24).
The sovereignty of each of the individual thirteen States was recognized
by King George III after the "Articles of the proposed Treaty" of peace
were signed between England and "Commissioners of the United States of
America" in Paris on November 30, 1782. As stipulated by Benjamin Franklin
in the preamble of the treaty with England, and in cooperation with France,
formal independence from and peace with England for each of the thirteen
individually recognized States was finalized as peace was made between
France and England. This definitive "Treaty of Peace" between England and
"the United States of America" was signed on September 3, 1783. The entire
transaction for peace was referred to as the "Peace of Paris" (WEW p. 212-13;
SEM p. 266-67). Article I of both documents contain these words:
"His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz. New
Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, [Delaware,] Maryland,
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign
and independent States; that he treats with them as such; and for himself,
his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety,
and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof"
Given their history of inter-colonial rivalries, many observers doubted
that any compact between the newly independent thirteen States would last.
"Josiah Tucker, dean of Gloucester, who was one of the leading economic
and political authorities of Great Britain, said, 'The mutual antipathies
and clashing interests of the Americans... their difference of governments,
habitudes, and manners, indicate that they will have no centre of union
and no common interest. They never can be united into one compact empire
under any species of government whatever'" (WEW p. 213).
Alexander Hamilton, a staunch Federalist strongly opposed to democracy,
and even a republican form of government, lobbied during the Constitutional
Convention of 1787 for a government patterned after the European monarchies.
He proposed that the government of the United States consist of a president
and senate who were to be elected by electors, with the members of the
senate serving for life, and a lower house consisting of persons elected
by popular vote for a three year term. He also proposed that the governors
of the States be appointed by the federal administration and that the president
or congress have veto power over the State legislatures (WEW p. 234-35,
294). In summary, the Hamiltonians, or Federalists, distrusted the individual
State governments' for judicious self-government, and argued for a strong
central government with a corresponding decrease of States' rights (WEW
p. 267; SEM p. 328-29; MLD p. 62-63, 69-70).
Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican and staunch advocate of democracy,
and believing that the Union was a group of sovereign States that had carefully
delegated specific powers to an administrative agent, stated his view of
States' rights within the Union as follows, "My plan would be to make the
states one as to everything connected with foreign nations, and several
as to everything purely domestic" (WEW p. 294). In summary, the Jeffersonians,
or Antifederalists, considered the United States as a league of sovereign
States that had delegated a few of the States' inherent and inalienable
powers to a federal authority, that Government was regulating force imposed
upon the people from without, and that there should be as little of it
as possible (WEW p. 267; SEM p. 328-29).
The Antifederalists of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Constitutional
Convention opposed ratification saying that "the powers vested in Congress
by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative,
executive, and judicial powers of the several States" resulting in "iron-handed
despotism" of the central government (MLD p. 123).
During the ratification process of the proposed constitution, George Mason,
in a letter to the Virginia Ratification Convention dated June 4, 1788,
warned of the inevitable tension in the union of States of "so extensive
a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very
different in manners, habits, and customs" under a National Government
(JRK p. 24; PBK ch. 8, doc. 37).
The June 26, 1788 Virginia Act of Ratification of the United States Constitution
contained clarifying language stating that the people of Virginia reserved
the right to recall the powers they delegated to the newly formed federal
government if "the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression,
and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their
will" (JRK p. 189; GLD p. 65).
Prior to ratifying the U.S. Constitution, the States of New York
and Rhode Island reserved the right to recall the powers they were delegating
to the new federal government by stating that "the powers of government
may be reassumed by the people whenever it shall become necessary to their
happiness" (GLD p. 65-66).
Dissenting States would not ratify the Constitution without the
assurance that a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, declaring the
privileges inviolably retained by the people of the States and limiting
the reach of the Federal government, would be put through in the first
session of the new Congress (WEW p. 247; MLD p. 58).
The Federalist position argued against a bill of rights in the new Constitution,
stating that it was "unnecessary" since sufficient restraint upon the government
already exists within the body of the Constitution, being understood
by the prominent phrase "WE THE PEOPLE" and inherited respect for British
common-law. They also surmised that a specific list of rights would provide
a rationale for the national government to violate other rights not listed.
The Federalist were especially opposed to a declaration of rights which
exclusively placed limits on the national government, while not similarly
addressing the State governments (Alexander Hamilton,
Number 84; MLD p. 58-60).
As typified in New York State's ratification document, the Antifederalist
position argued that a bill of rights was a "legal weapon to keep the national
government within its specified sphere of constitutional trust... in the
event of a constitutional contest between [a State] and the national government"
(MLD p. 61). This document reads in part,
"That the sovereignty, freedom, and independency of the several states
shall be retained, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not
by this constitution expressly delegated to the United States in Congress
- Raphael Semmes in his 1869 work, Memoirs of Service Afloat,
writes of the nevousness of the States toward the proposed new government
in relation to the retained powers of the States (JRK p. 206).
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution addressed the
basic Antifederalist distrust of a central government to not usurp the
reserved rights of the States (MLD p. 5; JRK p. 206).
Prior to ratifying the new constitution, the State of Massachusetts
insisted "that it be explicitly declared, that all powers not delegated
by the aforesaid Constitution are reserved to the several States, to be
by them exercised."
- Pennsylvania likewise insisted that the new constitution be amended
to include language guaranteeing that "All the rights of sovereignty which
are not, by the said Constitution, expressly and plainly vested in the
Congress, shall be deemed to remain with, and shall be exercised by the
several states in the Union."
James Madison, "the father of the Constitution", expressed his view
of the proposed new government and the sovereign status of the States as
they ratified the new constitution when he stated,
"In order to ascertain the real character of the government, it may
be considered in relation to the foundation on which it is to be established;
to the sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn; to the operation
of those powers; to the extent of them; and to the authority by which future
changes in the government are to be introduced.
On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that the Constitution
is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America,
given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that
this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals
composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent
States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification
of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State,
the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing
the Constitution, will not be a NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.
That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are
understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many
independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation... Each State,
in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent
of all others, and only to be bound by its voluntary act" (James Madison,
Federalist Papers, Number 39).
According to author Lorenzo Johnson Green, in his 1966 book
The Negro in Colonial New England 1620-1776, John Adams insisted that the abolition
of slavery in Massachusetts was due to the protest of competing white laborers
rather than for ethical or moral reasons.
"Argument might have some weight in the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts,
but the real cause was the multiplication of labouring white people, who
would no longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to
their injury. The common people would not suffer the labor, by which alone
they could obtain a subsistence, to be done by slaves. If the gentlemen
had been permitted by law to hold slaves, the common white people would
have put the slaves to death, and their masters too perhaps" (JRK p. 84).
In 1798, the legislatures of Kentucky, inspired by Thomas Jefferson, and
Virginia, inspired by James Madison, asserting their belief that they had
the sovereign right to nullify any illegal or harmful acts of the Federal
government, declared that both the Alien and Sedition Acts, passed by the
Federalist controlled Congress, were unconstitutional and would not be
enforced in their States (WEW p. 289; SEM p. 354; JRK p. 164-65; MLD p.
It was widely proposed by New England Federalists that the New England
States secede from the Union should Jefferson be elected president in the
election of 1800. The Federalist newspaper, the Columbian Centinel,
warned, "Tremble then in case of Jefferson's election, all ye holders of
public funds, for your ruin is at hand." Federalist John Adams, having
lost his reelection bid, was so disgusted at the outcome of the election,
he refused to welcome Jefferson or attend his inauguration (WEW p. 290,
In 1804, New Jersey adopted a mode of gradual emancipation of slaves that
was to take effect in 1827. Slaves born before 1804 were to remain slaves
for life. These remaining slaves were referred to as "colored apprentices
for life." Children of slaves born after July 4, 1804 were "free," but
had to remain as servants of their masters. Females had to labor in this
way until age 21, and males until age 25. The 1860 United States census
still enumerated 18 slaves in New Jersey (JRK p. 75; GKW).
American slave ships flew the Stars and Stripes (not the flags of
the Confederate States of America).
New England Federalists, already enraged over the Louisiana Purchase, feared
that their influence in the affairs of government would be further diminished
as western and southern territories applied for admission into the Union
(WEW p. 308, 333). During debate in Congress on Jan. 14, 1811 over the
admission of Louisiana as a state, Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts declared,
"If this bill passes, it is my deliberate opinion that it is virtually
a dissolution of the Union; that it will free the States from their moral
obligation; and as it will be the right of all, so it will be duty of some,
definitely to prepare for a separation–amicably if they can, violently
if they must" (WEW p. 331; GLD p. 28).
American shipowners and merchants, especially in New England, were very
much against United States participation in the War of 1812. New England
Federalists organized political and economic opposition to the United States
war effort. New England merchants and privateers carried on illicit and
profitable commerce with British merchant ships and conducted business
with the British army in Canada in defiance if the United States embargo
against trade with England (GLD p. 33; WEW p. 329-33; MLD p. 8). A few
of the more outspoken members of the Federalist party even advocated a
separate peace between New England and Great Britain (GLD p. 32). The governors
of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, exercised their sovereign
States' rights by refusing President Madison's call for their State militias
to aid in the war effort against the British (WEW p. 327).
New England newspapers boldly advocated secession during the War of 1812,
arguing that "the Federal constitution is nothing more than a treaty between
independent sovereignties... and that any state had a right to withdraw"
(WEW p. 333).
The January 13, 1813 edition of the Boston Centinal editorialized
approvingly on secession as the imminent remedy for New England's perceived
inadequate voice in the governing of the United States by stating, "The
sentiment is hourly extending, and, in these northern states, will soon
be universal, that we are in no better condition with respect to the south,
than that of a conquered people... We must be no longer deafened by senseless
clamours about a separation of the states... Should the present administration,
with their adherents in the southern states, still persist in the prosecution
of this wicked and ruinous war–in unconstitutionally creating new states
in the mud of Louisiana (the inhabitants of which country are as ignorant
of republicanism as the alligators of the swamps) and in opposition to
the commercial rights and privileges of New England, much as we deprecate
a separation of the union, we deem it an evil much less to be dreaded that
a co-operation with them in these nefarious projects" (GLD p. 30-31).
On February, 14 1814, with the United States still at war with England,
both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a resolution
that read, "The question of New England's withdrawal from the Union is
not a question of power or of right to separate, but only a question of
time and expediency." On October 8, 1814, a committee of the Massachusetts
legislature called for a December 15th convention of New England States
in Hartford, Connecticut for the purpose of considering the secession of
the Eastern States from the Union and the creation of a New England confederacy
(SEM p. 383; WEW p. 331-33).
The September 10, 1814 edition of the Boston Centinel opined, "...
the Union of the Northern and Southern States is not essential to the safety,
and very much opposed to the interests, of both sections. The extent of
territory is too large to be harmoniously governed by the same representative
body... The commercial and non-commercial states have views and interests
so different, that I conceive it to be impossible that they ever can be
satisfied with the same laws... each section will be better satisfied to
govern itself: and each is large and populous enough for its own protection..."
(GLD p. 31).
The December 15, 1814 edition of the Boston Centinel opined on "a
commercial treaty with England, which shall provide for the admission [into
the New England republic] of such states as may wish to come into it, and
which shall prohibit England from making a treaty with the South and West,
our commerce will be secured to us, our standing in the nation raised to
its proper level; and New England's feelings will no longer be sported
with or her interests violated" (GLD p. 32; GE p. 112).
The Missouri Compromise of 1820, limiting slavery to South of the 36°30'
parallel, while couched in terms of slavery, was really a political compromise
over a balance of Congressional power between the industrial North and
agrarian South. It was not concerned with the plight of slaves. Balance
was maintained with the new free State of Maine offsetting the new slave
State of Missouri. This debate served to reinforce the sectional consciousness
between North and South (WEW p. 352-53).
Thomas Jefferson, now in private life, was greatly alarmed by the Missouri
Compromise. He considered it ill-conceived and suicidal to the Union.
In a letter to Mark Langhorn Hill, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts,
on April 5, 1820 he wrote, "I congratulate you on the sleep of the Missouri
question–I wish I could say on its death; but of this I dispair! The idea
of a geographical line once suggested, will brood in the minds of all those
who prefer the gratification of their ungovernable passions to the peace
and Union of the country!" (SDC p. 46).
On April 22, 1820 Jefferson wrote to John Holmes, U.S. Representative from
Maine, that this compromise "like a fire bell in the night, awakened, and
filled me with terror. I considered it at once the [death] knell of the
union! It is hushed, indeed, for the moment, but this is a reprieve only,
not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle
moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of
men will never be obliterated, and every irritation will make it deeper
and deeper! I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man in earth
who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach
[of slavery] in any practical way. The cession of that kind of property,
for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle, which would not cost me a second
thought. A general emancipation and expatriation could be effected, and
gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. But, as it is,
we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let
him go! Justice is in the one scale and self preservation in the other..."
(SDC p. 46).
Thomas Jefferson saw a scheme of defeated Federalists behind the Missouri
Compromise, using it as a means back into power. He asserted that they
were attempting to fan the flames of passion over slavery and capitalize
on the deepening North-South geographical consciousness that the Compromise
fueled in order to win back the Presidency.
On September 20, 1820 he wrote to William Pinckney, Senator from Maryland:
"the Missouri question is a mere party trick. The leaders of Federalism,
defeated in the schemes of obtaining power, by rallying partizans to the
principle of monarchism–a principle of personal, not if local division,
have changed their tack... They are taking advantage of the virtuous people,
to affect a division of parties, by a geographical line. They expect that
this will insure them on local principles, the majority they could never
obtain on principles of federalism; but they are still putting their shoulder
to the wrong wheel–they are wasting jeremaids(sic) on the evils of slavery,
as if we were advocates for it" (SDC p. 46).
On December 29, 1820 Jefferson wrote to General Lafayette: "The boisterous
sea of liberty, indeed, is never without a wave, and that from Missouri
is now rolling toward us, but we shall ride over it as we have all others.
It is not a moral question, but one merely of power. It's object is to
raise a geographical principle for the choice of a President, and the noise
will be kept up till that is effected" (SDC p. 47).
On August 17, 1821 Jefferson wrote to General Henry Dearborn: "I rejoice
with you that the State of Missouri is at length a member of our Union.
Whether the question it excited is dead, or only sleepeth, I do not know.
I see only that it has given resurrection to the Hartford Convention men.
They have had the address by playing on the honest feelings of our former
friends to seduce them from their kindred spirits, and to borrow their
weight into the Federal scale. Desperate of regaining power under political
distinctions they have adroitly wriggled into its seat again in the ascendency,
from which their sins have hurled them" (SDC p. 47).
The famous Senate debate between Daniel Webster and Robert Y. Hayne in
January of 1830 epitomized the continuing Federalist vs. Antifederalist,
or nationalistic vs. States' rights, battle of interpreting the Constitutional
authority of the Federal government. Hayne, speaking first, emphasized
the understanding that the citizens who gathered to create a federal government
were representing the interests of the citizens of their respective States.
In rebuttal, Webster minimized the fact that these founding citizen's first
concern was to the welfare of their own State and, instead, emphasized
their coming together en masse. By de-emphasizing the State as a political
entity, Webster attempted to minimize the relationship between a State
and its citizens and sought to build up the importance of the Federal government
over that of the States. While the issue was still not resolved, the nationalists
inched their way forward while the States' rights advocates seemed to lose
some influence, thus placing the South even more on the defensive (WEW
The industrial North, no longer needing such labor, was still in the process
of weaning itself of slavery before the War. Abolitionists insisted that
the South do so overnight, even though it was still a more integral and
vital part of the Southern economy. In January of 1831 the famous Boston
abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, urged immediate emancipation of slaves
with no compensation to the slave owners. Failing this, he advocated secession
by the Northern States from the Union. Labor union leaders sought his attention
regarding the slavery-like conditions of Massachusetts cotton mill workers
who worked much longer hours that did slaves, and whose meager pay kept
them in living conditions worse than those of slaves. Garrison, bitterly
opposed to labor unions, was not interested. In the first issue of his
newspaper the Liberator Garrison lashed out against union organizers
for trying to "inflame the minds of our working classes against the more
opulent and to persuade them that they are contemned and oppressed by a
wealthy aristocracy" (WEW p. 414-15).
Unlike most leading politicians of the day, some abolitionists were unwilling
to compromise on the issue of slavery to the point of disolving the Union.
Abolitionist Garrison proclaimed, "This Union is a lie! The American Union
is an imposition–a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell!...
I am for its overthrow!... Up with the flag of disunion, that we may have
a free and glorious Republic of our own; and when the hour shall come,
the hour will have arrived that shall witness the overthrow of slavery"
(SDC p. 100).
In 1832 South Carolina exercised the belief in States' rights by passing
an Ordinance of Nullification in response to the new federal tariff law
of 1832. The federal tariff law of 1832 was declared "null, void and no
law, not binding upon this state, its officers or citizens." It was further
stated that should the Federal government attempt to enforce the tariff
act, the people of South Carolina would be absolved from their political
connection to the United States. President Jackson threatened to send in
troops to force South Carolina to collect the new tariff. Jackson finally
backed a compromise tariff, while South Carolina wasn't able to muster
support from other Southern States. In an 1833 retrospective statement
to a friend, Jackson accused South Carolina of trying to form a Southern
Confederacy (WEW p. 393-94).
On January 20, 1848 Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln affirmed the spirit
of the Declaration of Independence during a portion of a speech
"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the
right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new
one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right
– a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this
a right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government
may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize,
and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit." Congressional
Globe, Volume XIX, page 94 (GLD p. 67; SDC p. 87).
In light of the famous 1850 Congressional oratories of Senators John C.
Calhoun, William H. Seward and others over the admission of California
into the Union and the slave status of the territories of New Mexico and
Utah, it became evident that the famous and unresolved Federalist versus
Antifederalist debate over the nature of American federalism that began
during the writing and ratification of the United States Constitution
was among the core issues of the South's War for Independence. By now,
a North-South division within the Congress of the United States had taken
place, a division which took place between Northern Rebublicans and Southern
Democrats. John C Calhoun argued for Southern self-determination, and contended
that the Northern States were using the national government to aggresively
move against slavery and Southern commercial prosperity through protectionist
policies that favored Northern interests (MLD p. 9). The resulting Compromise
of 1850, while seeking to stave off a secessionist movement by Southern
States, actually agitated pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions by having
the effect of nullifying the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and introducing
the explosive Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (WEW p. 455-59).
In a chain of events that began on March 11, 1854 with the rescue by Sherman
M. Booth of fugitive slave, Joshua Glover, from imprisonment under the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the State of Wisconsin declared this Federal
law and a similar one of 1793 to be unconstitutional. In words reminiscent
to those of 1798 Kentucky and Virginia over the Alien and Sedition Acts,
Wisconsin declared that the assumed authority of the Federal Judiciary
in this case and the Fugitive Slave Act to be "void and of no force" within
her boundaries. Wisconsin was asserting its States' rights–that is, state
sovereignty, one of which was nullification.
Booth was arrested and confined by a Federal Marshal. On May 27, 1854 Judge
A. D. Smith of the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Booth's contention
that the Fugitive Act was unconstitutional. The full Wisconsin Supreme
Court affirmed Judge Smith's ruling on July 19, 1854. The State court ordered
Booth released (SDC p. 74-75).
During a message to the Wisconsin legislature in 1858 Republican Governor
Alexander W. Randal denounced the encroachment of the Federal Government
upon the reserved rights and sovereignty of the States, as typified in
the enforcement of the Federal Fugitive Slave Laws.
"The tendency of the action of the Federal Government has been for
many years, aided by the Federal Courts, to centralization, and to an absorption
of a large share of the sovereignty of the States. It has trspassed (sic)
upon the reserved rights of the States and the people – assuming a jurisdiction
over them in their exercise of power undeligated. The Federal Government,
so far as there is any sovereignty under our form of Government, is sovereign
and independent in the exercise of its delegated powers, and the States
are sovereign and independent in the exercise of their reserved powers.
The safety of the States in the exercise of these powers, in defense of
the lives and properties and liberties of the people, demands a fair, deliberate
opposition and resistance to any attempt at usurpation or aggression by
the Federal Government, its Courts, its officers, or agents upon the reserved
rights of the States or its people" (SDC p. 83).
The United States Supreme Court reversed the Wisconsin Supreme Court on
March 7, 1859.
On March 19, 1859 the Republican controled Wisconsin Legislature passed
a joint resolution in support of the Wisconsin Supreme Court that stated
"Whereas, The Supreme Court of the United States as assumed
appellate jurisdiction, in the matter of the application of Sherman M.
Booth, for a writ of habeas corpus...
And Whereas, Such assumption of power and authority by the Supreme
Court of the United States to become the final arbitor of the liberty of
the citizen, and to override and nullify [the] judgements of the State
Resolved, the Senate concurring, That we regard the action of
the Supreme Court of the United States in assuming jurisdiction in the
case before mentioned, as arbitrary act of power unauthorized by the Constitution
and virtually superceding the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus, and
prostrating the rights and liberties of the people, at the foot of unlimited
Resolved, That this userpation of jurisdiction by the Federal
Judiciary, in the said case, and without process, is an act of undeligated
power, and therefore, without authority, void and of no force.
Resolved, That the Government framed by the Constitution of
the United States, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent
of the powers delegated to itself...
Resolved,... that the General Government is the exclusive judge
of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism,
since the discretion of those who administer the Government, and not the
Constitution, would be the measure of their powers – that the several states
which formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the
unquestionable right to judge of its infraction, and that a positive defiance
of those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts, done, or attempted to
be done, under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy" (SDC p.
While some in the North decried slavery, Northern industrial demand, Northern
and European consumer demand, and Northern financiers kept slavery viable
in the South. The English received over 80% of exported American cotton
and employed about four hundred thousand workers in their cotton mills
(WEW p. 526).
In 1857 New Englanders held a convention at the industrial city of Worcester,
Massachusetts to determine whether they should secede from the Southern
States in direct response to the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs
pushed by Democrats in Congress.
During the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate on September 18, 1858, in Charleston,
Illinois, Abraham Lincoln emphatically stated his view of the role blacks
in American society.
"I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way
the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I
am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the free negroes,
or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, or having them marry with
white people. I will say in addition that there is a physical difference
between the white and black races which, I suppose, will forever forbid
the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality;
and inasmuch as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together,
there must be the position of the superiors and the inferiors; and that
I, as much as any other man, am in favor of the superior position assigned
to the white man" (WEW p. 500).
Union general William Tecumseh Sherman wrote in 1858, "I would not if I
could abolish or modify slavery."
The Republican presidential platform of 1860 advocated no slavery in the
territories of the United States, but stressed a noninterference policy
regarding slavery in the States where it already existed (WEW p. 505; SEM
The election of 1860 "placed Northern interests in control of the national
government, their nationalism and the Southern commitment to state sovereignty
crystallized" (MLD p. 8). Feeling that the economic, political, and sovereign
interests of the States of the South were in danger, a conference of South
Carolina state leaders in October of 1860 decided to secede from the Union
if Lincoln were elected President (WEW p. 511). To these States, the reserved
sovereign right of secession was the only peaceable choice between
the two alternatives of submission to a central government that had become
the judge of its own authority, or being forced to remain in the Union
under coercion by this same central government (MLD p. 52). On December
20, 1860, prior to Lincoln's swearing in, the state convention declared
South Carolina to be out of the Union (WEW p. 511).
Along with their position within the Union, the Southern States were turning
their backs on what they perceived as the deterioration of American constitutional
federalism as originally set in place by the Founding Fathers (MLD p. 1-5).
Author Marshall L. DeRosa summarizes the issue.
"But by 1861, the political divisions between North and South regarding
constitutional exegesis were so entrenched that the Constitution
ceased to be the instrument of a 'more perfect union' and rather served
as the vehicle for dissension and separation... Northerners insisted upon
a model of federalism consisting of a national community of individuals,
with sovereignty being a national phenomenon–that is, nationalism–whereas
Southerners adhered to a model consisting of a community of states, with
the citizens in their respective states functioning as the repositories
of sovereignty and thereby controlling the bulwarks of their social and
economic interests–that is, state sovereignty" (MLD p. 8-9).
Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina, on the day of his State's secession
from the Union, cited Wisconsin State Supreme Court Judge Smith in the
Booth case as precedent for State action in response to wrongs committed
by the Federal Government.
"Sir, the North threaten to fight us back into the Union, after we
shall have taken our stand for Southern Independence. They now deny the
right of a State to judge of its own grievances and to apply its own remedies,
notwithstanding for years, many Northern States, Wisconsin in particular,
have asserted this right for themselves. I want no better license for our
action to-day than the decision of Judge Smith in the Rescue cases of Wisconsin"
(SDC p. 85).
On November 26, 1860 Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune wrote,
"If the cotton states unitedly and earnestly wish to withdraw peacefully
from the Union, we think they should and would be allowed to do so. Any
attempt to compel them by force to remain, would be contrary to the principles
enunciated in the immortal Declaration of Independence–contrary to the
fundamental ideas on which human liberty is based" (SDC p. 86).
In December, 1860 the Chicago Tribune stated, "Not a few of the
republican journals of the interior are working themselves up to the belief,
which they are endeavoring to impress upon their readers, that the seceded
States, be they few or many, will be whipped back in the Union... but the
drift of opinion seems to be that, if peaceable secession is possible,
the retiring States will be assisted to go, that this needless and bitter
controversy may be brought to an end. If the Union is to be dissolved,
a bloodless separation is by all means to be coveted. Do not let us make
that impossible" (SDC p. 101).
Horace Greeley, expressing the majority of Northern sentiment at the time,
stated in the December 17, 1860 New York Tribune, "If the Declaration
of Independence justified the secession from the British Empire of 3,000,000
of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession
of 5,000,000 of Southerners from the Federal Union in 1860" (GE p. 164).
In Lincoln's first inaugural address, he said, "I have no purpose, directly
or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states
where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so" (PMA p. 215).
Secretary of State William Seward, during a Cabinet meeting in the first
month of the Lincoln administration, stated that "[t]he attempt to reinforce
Sumter will provoke an attack and involve war. The very preparation for
such an expedition will precipitate war at that point. I oppose beginning
war at that point. I would advise against the expedition to Charleston.
I would at once, at every cost, prepare for war at Pensacola and Texas.
I would instruct Major Anderson to retire from Sumter" (GE p. 160).
Lincoln biographer, J. G. Holland, explained in his 1865 work, Life
of Lincoln, why Lincoln did not call for armed force to suppress the
secession of Southern States before the fall of Fort Sumter.
"Up to the fall of Sumter, Mr. Lincoln had no basis for action in the
public feeling. If he had raised an army, that would have been an act of
hostility, that would have been coercion. A thousand Northern presses would
have pounced down on him as a provoker of war. After the fall of Sumter
was the time to act" (GE p. 167).
President Buchanan had declared that he could find no constitutional authority
for using force against any State that seceded. However, contrary to the
views he held as a Congressman in 1848, President Lincoln declared, in
effect, "I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, which means,
in my opinion, a union of the states. I shall do anything in my power to
sustain the Constitution and the union, regardless of the constitutional
aspect of what I do" (WEW p. 525).
The great majority of Confederate soldiers owned no slaves. The 1860 United
States census revealed that about 25% of white Southern families, or about
6% of the total white Southern population held slaves (WEW p. 529; JRK
p. 83, 86).
As recorded in the Congressional Globe, on February 11, 1861 the
United States House of Representatives passed a resolution with unanimous
Republican support that stated in part, "Resolved, that neither the Federal
Government, nor the people, or Governments of non-slave holding States,
have a purpose or a Constitutional right to legislate upon, or interfere
with slavery in any of the States of the Union" (SDC p. 150).
Commercial interests in the North were greatly disturbed over the secession
of the Southern States, fearing great financial harm to Northern shipping
from the lower import tariffs at Southern ports. An editorial in the February
19, 1861 Manchester, New Hampshire Union Democrat voiced the common
concerns of Northern shipping interests.
"The Southern Confederacy will not employ our ships or buy our goods.
What is our shipping without it? Literally nothing. The transportation
of cotton and its fabrics employs more ships than all other trade. It is
very clear that the South gains by this process, and we lose. No–we MUST
NOT let the South go!" (JRK p. 52)
In an attempt to keep Southern States from leaving the Union, a thirteenth
amendment to the Constitution, very different from the current one,
was whittled out of the Crittenden Compromise by both Republicans and Democrats.
It was approved by Congress on February 28, 1861 and submitted to the States
for ratification on March 2, 1861. It declared in part that "no amendment
shall be made to the Constitution which would abolish or interfere with
slavery wherever it is already established." The States of Maryland and
Ohio ratified it before the War broke out (WEW p. 520-21).
Rumor and speculation as to Lincoln's intentions toward the South led the
March 6, 1861 edition of the New York Herald to write, "We have
no doubt Mr. Lincoln wants the Cabinet at Montgomery to take the initiative
by capturing the two forts in its waters, for it would give him the opportunity
of throwing upon the Southern Confederacy the responsibility of commencing
hostilities. But the country and posterity will hold him just as responsible
as if he struck the first blow..." (GLD p. 95).
In the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, its framers
sought to eliminate ambiguities that gave rise to the grievances that led
to the secession of the Southern States, at the core of which was the centralization
of government to the detriment of the states. The issue of States' rights
as a major cause of the secession of the Southern States becomes clear
in the issue of the Confederate States Supreme Court. Although Article
III of the C.S. Constitution, adopted on March 11, 1861, establishes
the Supreme Court, federal encroachment upon States' rights fostered by
rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court were still fresh in the minds of the
C.S. Congress. Author Marshall L. DeRosa relates, "In response to a bill
introduced in the C.S.A. Senate to organize the Supreme Court, William
Yancey of Alabama remarked in no uncertain terms that 'when we decide that
the state courts are of inferior dignity to this Court, we have sapped
the main pillars of this Confederacy.'" As a result of this mindset, the
actual establishment of the C.S. Supreme Court never took place (MLD p.75-77).
As slavery was legal in the United States, so it was in the Confederate
States. Under the C.S. Constitution, slavery was explicitly recognized
as an institution of the States, whereas in the U.S. Constitution
the issue of slavery in general was intentionally vague. As in the United
States, the federal government of the Confederate States was prohibited
from interfering with slavery within the States. The States of the Confederacy,
however, were not constitutionally required to recognize or continue the
practice of slavery within their own borders. In fact, several proposals
to require that each State continue to recognize slavery were not adopted
during the Constitutional Convention. The consensus, as voiced by Senator
Albert G. Brown of Mississippi, was that "each State is sovereign within
its own limits; and that each for itself can abolish or establish slavery
for itself" (MLD p. 68-71).
The C.S. Constitution did not explicitly provide for the right of
secession because it was assumed that secession was an act of sovereignty
that the States had not delegated or otherwise abdicated. In the preamble
to the C.S. Constitution, using the words "each State acting in
its own sovereign and independent character," the framers implicitly allowed
for secession by emphasizing the understanding of each State's sovereign
nature (MLD p. 53).
On March 12, 1861 three Confederate commissioners, who had come to Washington
seeking negotiations toward a peaceable separation and offer payment for
apportioned public debt and seized federal property, addressed Secretary of
State William Seward with an official letter of intent. Seward, speaking only
through Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell, assured the Confederate
commissioners that the Union troops in Fort Sumter in Charleston and Fort Pickens
in Pensacola would not be sent supplies without due notification and led them to
expect that the forts would be evacuated in a few days. As the commissioners were
departing for home, they learned that an expedition of supplies and military
reinforcement was being made ready to depart the port of New York (WEW p. 522).
The April 5, 1861 New York Tribune
reported, "Many rumors are in
circulation to-day. They appear to have originated from movements on the
part of the United States troops, the reasons for which have not been communicated
to the reporters at Washington as freely as the late Administration was
in the habit of imparting Cabinet secrets. There can be no doubt that serious
movements are on foot" (SDC p. 51).
The authorities at Charleston were informed that an unarmed supply ship
was to be sent to Fort Sumter. Fearing that the Federal fleet would enter
the harbor, they signaled their intent to fire upon the ship should it
enter the harbor, but the United States sent the ship anyway. The ship
was reported off Charleston on April 10, 1861. In response to the presence
of the ship, the Southern military in Charleston prepared to attack the
Fort, anticipating the use of force by the Federal fleet to send reinforcements
to the fort (SDC p. 51).
An article in the April 15, 1861 New York Tribune
"[t]he armed ships which accompanied the supplies took no part in the contest"
(SDC p. 52).
While the attention of the South was on Fort Sumter, the Federal fleet
succeeded in reinforcing Fort Pickens in Pensacola with men and supplies.
This plan had the additional result of provoking and inducing the South
into firing on Fort Sumter. The April 15 New York Post
"...Gen. Scott has been averse to the attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter.
He saw that it would cost men and vessels which the Government could not
spare just now... He saw that the two keys of the position were Fort Pickens,
in the Gulf, and Washington, the Capital. His plans, based on these facts,
were at once laid... Every hour the traitors spent before Sumter gave them
more surely into the hands of the master. To make assurance doubly sure,
he pretended to leave Fort Pickens in the lurch... The Government said
not a word–only asked of the traitors the opportunity to send its own garrison
a needed supply of food... Scarce had they begun their attack [on the Fort],
when they saw with evident terror, ships hovering about the harbor's mouth;...
but no ships came in to Anderson's help... The position of affairs is this–Charleston
is blockaded–Fort Pickens is reinforced by troops, which the traitors foolishly
believed were destined for Sumter... The traitors have, without the slightest
cause, opened the war..." (SDC p. 52-53).
By defining the secession of the Southern States from the Union as a "rebellion",
Lincoln was able to justify mustering an army to quell the "insurrection"
under the Act of Congress of 1795 which limited the use of the specially
called militia to thirty days after the beginning of the next session of
Congress. Lincoln delayed calling Congress into special session for at
least two and a half months, thus prolonging his use of the militia against
the South before he had to gain their approval for his actions (GLD p.
109-11; WEW p. 525).
The loyalty of free blacks and even slaves toward the Southern cause was
counted on in some parts of the South. Along with their white counterparts,
there were free blacks who were anxious to prove their bravery and patriotism
against the invading Yankees (ELJ p. 219). Even though the use of black
volunteers in the Confederate Army did not officially take place until
the closing three months of the War (ELJ p. 246), black volunteers were
often employed in state and local militias throughout the War (ELJ p. 219).
These black Confederates were often awarded state pensions after the war
based on their service to the Confederacy. Historian Ervin L Jordan documents
that in 1928 the State of Virginia awarded pensions to "black males who
served on military details or performed guard duty on behalf of the Confederacy"
(ELJ p. 226).
In June of 1861 Tennessee became the first State in the Confederacy to
authorize the use of free black soldiers. Black soldiers between the ages
of fifteen and fifty were paid $18 per month and received that same rations
and clothing as white soldiers. By September of 1861 two regiments of
black soldiers were in Memphis (ELJ p. 218-19).
On July 4, 1861 before a special session of what was left of the Congress,
Lincoln rationalized his actions against the South as he said, "These measures,
whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to
be a popular demand and public necessity, trusting then as now that Congress
would readily ratify them" (GLD p, 111).
"The legislature of Maryland was to convene on September 17, 1861. The
military commander of the district was instructed by the secretary of war
to arrest all members who were suspected of disloyalty. Many of them were
seized and imprisoned, although there was no charge against them of having
committed overt acts of disloyalty or treason. They appealed to Chief Justice
[Roger B.] Taney who decided that they were held illegally, but they were
not released. In this action of President Lincoln's a most dangerous precedent
was created. Through the acquiescence of Congress, then in session, the
president had become a dictator.
The reason for the incarceration of certain members of the Maryland
legislature was the fear of the administration that the state might secede
and join the Confederacy. On the face of the record that would appear to
be a most unfortunate contingency, for in case of the secession of Maryland
the capital city of the federal government would have been surrounded by
the seceded states. But, on the other hand, it could not have had any practical
effect, as the state of Maryland was held by Union troops as tightly as
if it had been conquered territory" (WEW p. 525-26).
In 1861 John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, warned the U.S. War Department
that his flock was "willing to fight to the death for the support of the
constitution, the government, and the laws of the country, [but not] for
the abolition of slavery" (SEM p. 666).
Union soldiers from New York on patrol out of Newport News, Virginia on
December 22, 1861 were attacked by local Confederate forces near Newport
Bridge. The attacking Confederate force was made up of cavalry and 700
armed blacks. Local Confederate fighting units were often formed during
times of Union raids, and then were disbanded until needed again (ELJ p.
Slavery was still in the process of losing favor in the North when war
broke out, with it still being legal in some States, illegal in most, and
still being phased out in others. With mixture of free and slave States,
as well as States that implemented gradual or conditional emancipation,
the Union hadn't even freed all of the slaves within its own boarders throughout
Anthony Trollope, a British citizen traveling throughout the North and
South early in the War observed, "The South is seceding from the North
because the two are not homogeneous. They have different instincts, different
appetites, different morals, and a different culture."
In a message to Congress on March 6, 1862, Lincoln proposed compensation
to the owners of slaves in any state–including those in the South–that
would emancipate its slaves. This would have been consistent with how many
of the slaves were freed in Northern States. Both Lincoln's Cabinet and
Congress rejected the proposal (WEW p. 543). However, Congress did pass an
act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Lincoln signed the act
on April 16, 1862. Slave owners were paid up to $300 apiece for their
liberated slaves (WEW p. 544).
To the surprise of many Yankee soldiers, many Southern blacks were not
slaves. Knowing of the South only through stereotypes and often thinking that
all Southern blacks were slaves, Yankee soldiers sometimes accused free
blacks of hiding their masters, especially if the person's home were nicely
furnished. During such encounters, the Yankees would often steal the free
black's food and belongings, and even destroy their homes (JRK p. 134).
The loyalty of Southern blacks in the presence of Yankee soldiers was varied.
Some slaves went over to the Union troops, while others remained loyal
to their white families (JRK p. 133-34). Rarely, though, did Southern blacks
give Yankee soldiers their complete trust (ELJ p. 143).
Union soldiers reporting on the June 1862 battle of Seven Pines claimed
that two black Confederate regiments proved themselves ruthless opponents,
showing no mercy to either dead or wounded Yankee soldiers (ELJ p. 223).
The wife of Union general Ulysses S. Grant, a slave owner herself, kept
her slaves until the close of the War (WEW p. 518, 543).
In August 25, 1862 Lincoln wrote a letter to Horace Greeley of the New
York Tribune in which he stated in part, "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" (WEW p. 508).
During the battle of Antietam in September of 1862 fully armed black Confederate
soldiers were observed as an integral part of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern
Virginia (ELJ p. 223).
On September 24, 1862 Lincoln, having especially suffered the criticism
of the Northern Democrats or "Copperheads" since
he commenced hostilities against the South, suspended the writ of habeas
corpus (the right to a speedy and public trial), a right guaranteed in
the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. A Copperhead was a Northern
Democrat who was critical of Lincoln's war policies and his war against
the South. An estimated 38,000 political prisoners were incarcerated by
Lincoln's Provost Marshals, some of whom were sentenced before military
tribunals, while others received no trial at all, never having known the
charges against them (WEW p. 525; GLD p. 115-16; GE p. 7).
In an 1862 letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln
said, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is
not either to save or destroy slavery."
In December of 1862, Lincoln sought to alleviate the fears that emancipated
slaves would come into the North and compete for the labor of white workers
by assuring Congress that each State can "decide for itself whether to
receive them" (JRK p. 55).
In 1862 the citizens of Illinois amended their State Constitution to say
that "No Negro or mulatto shall immigrate or settle in this state" (JRK
With the war losing its popularity in the North in 1862, the people of
the North were not so willing to send their husbands and sons to die in
"Mr. Lincoln's war" to restore the Union, let alone for the emancipation
of slaves (WEW p. 544).
It was not until well into the War that Lincoln began to link abolition
of slavery with the War itself. He began to use the issue of slavery as
a political tool to give the War a moral cause to help bolster Northern
support, distance England and France from the South, solidify his support
with the growing abolitionist movement, and possibly foster a slave revolt
in the South. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, issued
under his war powers, declared only slaves in those States that seceded
to be free. Those still enslaved in Northern or otherwise Union States
(Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri) were not freed by Lincoln's proclamation
since he knew he could not legally deprive United States citizens of their
"property." Exemptions from Lincoln's proclamation included "the parishes of
St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Johns, St. Charles, St. James,
Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and
Orleans, including the city of New Orleans... the forty-eight counties
designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac,
Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including
the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth," much of Tennessee, the South Carolina
coast, and any other areas of the Southern States under Union control.
Not one slave was actually freed through Lincoln's Proclamaion (WEW p.
545; SEM p. 654; ELJ p. 255; PMA p. 264-66).
Therefore, contrary to popular belief, Lincoln did not "free the
slaves." Emancipation of the slaves throughout the North and South was
due to the ratification of the current Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution by both the Northern and Southern States. Only in this
way could an acknowledged internal matter of the States be constitutionally
dealt with at the federal level, that is, with the States delegating authority
that had been previously reserved by them. Constitutionally, this was not
a matter for Lincoln and the Executive branch of the federal government.
During Congressional debate on January 8, 1863 Thadeous Stevens of Pennsylvania
declared on the floor of Congress that the States of the Confederacy were
a "belligerent nation" and no longer in the Union. As such, they were no
longer entitled to the protections of the U. S. Constitution. Therefore,
the taxes he proposed as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee were
to be levied upon "conquered provinces, just as all nations levy them upon
provinces and nations they conquer." He went on to say that he would "as
a necessary war measure, take every particle of property, real and personal,
life-estate and reversion, of every disloyal man, and sell it for the benefit
of of the nation in carrying on this war." Stevens further stated that
"this war must be carried on upon principle wholly independent of [the
Constitution]" and that the United States "must treat those States now
outside of the Union as conquered provinces and settle them with new men,
and drive the present rebels as exiles from this country... They have such
determination, energy, and endurance, that nothing but actual extermination
or exile or starvation will ever induce them to surrender to this Government"
(GLD p. 151; The Congressional Globe, January 8, 1863, p. 239-40,
The Conscription Act of March 3, 1863 forced Northern men into service
through a military draft. The draft was biased against the poor in that
a man could pay $300 to commute his service for a particular draft. A man
could also find a permanent substitute to serve in his place through a
three year enlistment. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the bringing
in of black workers to break a dock workers' strike brought Irish-Americans
in New York City to the boiling point. The first drawing of names for the
draft in the working-class quarters on July 13, 1863 sparked four days
of riots in New York City. Blacks, having been blamed for the loss of jobs
and the reason for the existence of the draft, were indiscriminately killed
or beaten (SEM p. 666).
Northern States and cities were often officially and harshly rebuked by
the Lincoln administration for not making their quota of recruits. Within
the Confederacy, the Conscription Act of 1862 was enacted under the watchful
eyes of the States. Within the Confederacy, federal legislation had to
pass the muster of the high courts of the States. This oversight was exercised
by these State high court judges who reserved the right to intercede on
behalf of their citizens concerning actions of the federal government.
Judge Moore of Texas, aware that conscription could be a tool of oppression
in the hands of the federal government, concluded that "a necessity
exists today, and the law is therefore constitutional, if tomorrow that
necessity should cease, its continuance would be as clearly unconstitutional"
(MLD p. 114-15). In practice, the Confederate States federal government
recognized the preeminence of the sovereignty of a State in disputes where
State and federal jurisdiction are in contest (MLD p.76).
On May 16, 1863 a convention of Democrats gathered in Albany, New York
to protest the military arrest of Clement Laird Vallandigham, Ohio Democrat
Congressman and candidate for governor of Ohio, along with many other such
military arrests of civilians, and the suspension of the writ of habeas
corpus. According to findings of the military trial, he was found guilty
of accusing Lincoln "and his minions" of rejecting a chance at peace with
the South "the day before the battle of Fredericksburg" because "the men
in power are attempting to establish a despotism in this country, more
cruel and more oppressive than ever existed before." As reported in The
American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year
1863, Lincoln answered the criticism of the Democrats by letter on
June 12, 1863.
"... Ours is a case of rebellion... and the provision of the Constitution
that 'the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended
unless when in case of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require
it,' is the provision which specially applies to our present case. This
provision plainly attests the understanding of those who made the Constitution
that ordinary courts of justice are inadequate to 'cases of rebellion'–attests
their purpose that, in such cases, men may be held in custody whom the
courts, acting on ordinary rules, would discharge... and its suspension
is allowed by the Constitution on purpose that men may be arrested and
held who cannot be proved to be guilty of defined crime... arrests are
made, not so much for what has been done, as for what probably would be
done... The man who stands by and says nothing when the peril of his Government
is discussed cannot be misunderstood. If not hindered, he is sure to help
the enemy; much more if he talks ambiguously–talks for his country with
'but,' and 'ifs,' and 'ands'" (GLD p. 119; GE p. 209-13; SDC p. 201-03).
In answer to Lincoln's letter of reply, the Democrats harshly criticized
his usurpation of power in a letter dated June 30, 1863.
"... You seem aware that the constitution of the United States, which
you have sworn to protect and defend, contains the following guarantees,
to which we again ask your attention [recitation of the first four Amendments
to the Constitution]... You are also, no doubt, aware that, on the
adoption of the constitution, these invaluable provisions were proposed
by the jealous caution of the states, and were inserted as amendments for
a perpetual assurance of liberty against the encroachments of power...
The fact has already passed into history that the sacred rights and immunities...
have not been preserved to the people during your administration. In violation
of the first of them, the freedom of the press has been denied. In repeated
instances newspapers have been suppressed in the loyal states, because
they criticized, as constitutionally they might, those fatal errors of
policy which have characterized the conduct of public affairs since your
advent to power. In violation of the second of them, hundreds, and we believe
thousands, of men have been seized and immured in prisons and bastiles,
not only without warrant upon probable cause, but without any warrant,
and for no other cause that a constitutional exercise of freedom of speech...
For all these acts you avow yourself ultimately responsible... These repeated
and continued invasions of constitutional liberty and private right have
occasioned profound anxiety in the public mind. The apprehension and alarm
which they are calculated to produce have been greatly enhanced by your
attempt to justify them, because in that attempt you assume to yourself
a rightful authority possessed by no constitutional monarch on earth...
[B]elieving as we do, that your forbearance is not the tenure by which
liberty is enjoyed in this country, we propose to challenge the grounds
on which your claim of supreme power is based. While yielding to you as
a constitutional magistrate... we cannot accord to you the despotic power
you claim... your meaning is, that, while the rights of the citizens are
protected by this constitution in time of peace, they are suspended or
lost in time of war, when invasion or rebellion exists... You claim to
have found... within the constitution, a principle or germ of arbitrary
power, which, in time of war, expands at once into an absolute sovereignty,
wielded by one man; so that liberty perishes, or is dependent on his will,
his discretion, or his caprice... An act of Congress approved by you on
the 3d of March, 1863, authorized the President to suspend [the writ
of habeas corpus] during the present rebellion. That the suspension is
a legislative, and not an executive act, has been held in every judicial
decision ever made in this country, and we think it cannot be delegated
to any other branch of the government" (SDC p. 204-06).
In May, 1865 Confederate POWs held at Point Lookout, Maryland were being
released if they took oaths of allegiance to the United States. A
lone black Confederate soldier refused the oath, remaining "unreconstructed
and unreconstructable." Historian Ervin L. Jordan laments the denial of
the existence and role of black Confederates, and their being consigned to
the obscurity shared by those blacks who served in the Revolutionary War
and the War of 1812 (ELJ p. 251).
A New American History by W. E. Woodward, 1936, Farrar & Rinehart,
Inc., On Murry Hill, New York (Excellent. Balanced, with more attention
to detail than many works and quite interesting to read.)
The Confederate Constitution of 1861 by Marshall L. DeRosa, 1991
(A good look at the intentions of the C.S.A by looking at their own Constitution
and the few, but significant differences between it and its U.S. counterpart.)
The South Was Right! by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy,
1998 (A fascinating and well footnoted look into little known facts critical
in understanding the War for Southern Independence.)
The Logic of History by Stephen D. Carpenter, 1864, S. D. Carpenter,
Publisher, Madison, Wis. (Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins,
Miss., 2000) (A collection of news accounts and analysis pertaining to
Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia by Ervin
L. Jordan, Jr., 1995, The University Press of Virginia (A facinating work
documenting the lives of and roles of blacks in "Civil War" Virginia)
America's Caesar - Abraham Lincoln and the Birth of a Modern Empire
by Greg Loren Durand, Second Edition, 2000 (A very revealing inquiry into
Lincoln's role in radically altering the original relationship and roles
of the Federal government versus that of the States during the War for
The Southern States of the American Union by J.L.M. Curry, 1895,
G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York (Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing, Wiggins,
Miss., 1999) (Traces the origins of the spirit of liberty expressed in
the Declaration of Independence, and in the South's secession from the
Northen States of the American Union.)
Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South 1861-1865 by
George Edmonds,1904, Science Hall Lamb (Reprinted by Crown Rights Publishing,
Wiggins, Miss., 2000) (A compeling view of the politics of the War for
The Founder's Constitution, edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph
Lerner, 1986, the University of Chicago Press (a collection of documents
from the early 1600s to 1830 that shed light on the philosophies behind
our American form of government)
The Oxford History of the American People by Samual Eliot Morison,
1965, Oxford University Press, New York (A useful reference, but with a
"central government" and Northern bias. Also somewhat colored by the social
atmosphere of the 1960s.)
By These Words by Paul M. Angle, 1954, Rand McNally & Co. (Text
of selected documents of American history.)
New Jersey Slavery and the Law, Gary K. Wolinetz, Rutgers Law Review, 50
(Summer 1998): 2227 ff
Last updated on August 2, 2001