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 Posted: Mon Nov 30th, 2009 01:14 am
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Unionblue
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Texas Defender wrote: Unionblue-

  I feel compelled to answer your last posting concerning the: "leaders of secession." They most certainly DID feel that they had grounds to leave the Union.
Texas Defender, first, thank you for your time and your post, I appreciate it.  Second, I agree the leaders of secession DID feel they had grounds to leave the Union.  My point is, were their reasons worthwhile?They set forth their reasons in a number of places. One can be seen in Jefferson Davis' Inaugural Address:

Jefferson Davis's Inaugural Address
Again, I agree that they put forth their reasons for separation as you state, "in a number of place," although I focused primarily on the Declarations and Ordinances of secession, I can accept Davis's Inaugural Address above as another source.  You in the 21st Century might conclude that the reasons given are not sufficient justification for their actions, but they in the 19th Century thought that they were.
  You might not believe that the Constitution allowed them to secede from the Union, but they did. You might not see an analogy to the situation in 1776, but they did.
I see nothing in your above paragraph to disagree with.  But I do wish to contend with the idea that somehow we in the 21st century are unable to judge those in the 19th century.  Unless somehow one of us has access to Professor Peabody's Wayback Machine, NONE of us are going to be able to draw conclusions about the differences between the Revolution of 1776 and the Rebellion of 1861.  I submit this is what history is for, to provide us with information and documents that give us insight of the times so that we may form judgements and learn lessons from the past.  While our knowledge may not be perfect, it does provide us with insight and the ability to compare both events in history.  You make mention of the fact the leaders of secession in 1861 believed the Constitution permitted secession or that they were following the spirit and intent of the DOI, but are they permitted to make such conclusions about 1776 and we are not about 1861?  Again, I suggest that this is the primary purpose of history, to look upon the past and draw conclusions and lessons from it, to the best of our present ability.After the process of secession was begun, an olive branch was offered by the Confederates to the US Government. In March of 1861, Jefferson Davis sent a peace commission to Washington to try to negotiate a peaceful separation. The offer was to pay for federal property on southern soil and even a portion of the national debt. On March 12, 1861, the three commissioners delivered a letter of intent to Secretery of State William Seward. He answered through then US Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell and said that Union troops at Ft. Sumter in Charleston and Ft. Pickens in Pensacola would not be resupplied without prior notification. Believing that the forts would soon be evacuated, the commissioners headed for home. At this time, the US Government had already assembled supplies and reinforcements to be sent to the forts in direct contradiction to the Confederates' expectations.
Again, I see very little to disagree with in your above paragraph and I agree with the sequence of events that you describe.  I would however tend to downgrade the description that paying for the property that one has already acquired through the act of theft is not the same act as the Congress of 1776 offered the British crown.  But this is my own view of the matter and meant as no insult to your own description of the events above.On April 29, 1861, Jefferson Davis made the following statement:

  "We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence. We ask no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never had power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms."

  Of course, by then it was too late. Ft. Sumter had been attacked, which was the event most desired by Abraham Lincoln. It allowed him to exploit public sentiment to raise an army to be used to hold the Union together at the point of a bayonet.
I agree with your reporting of Davis's words and the time they were spoken, but I also must agree that it was far too late, as anything would be after the firing on Ft. Sumter.  I would also suggest that BOTH Lincoln and Davis wanted the other to fire first so that either of them could exploit public sentiment, but Davis was the one who felt compelled to fire first, at the behest of most of the Confederate cabinet and leadership.  I fully share the sentiment that until that one act, there was a chance for the Confederacy to leave the Union peacefully.  Not a great chance, but a chance, but there was also mounting pressure to "do" something to stop the talk of rejoining the Union and to force other Southern states off the fence as it were, to "sprinkle blood" in the faces of the South and leave reconciliation far behind.  It is my own contention the bayonet was resorted to in order to hold the Confederacy together and to force its expansion.  If it was "too late" Davis and the Southern leadership must share in the blame for setting the time.Secession did not HAVE to lead to war. Before the attack on Ft. Sumter, there had been considerable sentiment to let the: "wayward sisters" go their own way. If there had been a different president inaugurated on March 4, 1861, history might have been very different. But the new president was Mr. Lincoln, and there was no way that he was ever going to accept secession. Since the Confederates were determined to leave the United States, and since Mr. Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union by any means necessary, war was therefore inevitable.
I too, agree that secession did not HAVE to lead to war and I also agree, as I have stated above, there was that considerable sentiment you speak of to let the South go.  But after Ft. Sumter and the firing on the "old flag" that sentiment vanished.  And I am afraid it would not have mattered to much on who was elected president or who was sworn in on March 4, as the break was a long time coming.  The South had threatened to secede over any attempt to interfere with slavery or if a president was elected that they did not favor (Republican mostly, but it could have been any other party if it threatened slavery in any way, shape, or form).                                                                                                       Secession could have been attempted in a peaceful and legal manner, but frankly, in my own opinion, the South knew it had no legal leg to stand on or that a majority of the public in the US was going to grant peaceful secession.  Chief Justice Taney had already decided that secession was found no where within the Constitution and had stated such in an unpublished, eight-page memorandum prepared sometime around late January 1861 for use in a court decision, if the issue would have ever come before him.  Taney supported slavery and argued that the Northern states were obliged to respect the institution, but then said, "The South contends that a state has a constitutional right to secede from the Union formed with her sister states.  In this I submit the South errs.  No power or right is constitutional but what can be exercised in a form or mode provided in the constitution for its exercise.  Secession is therefore not constitutional, but revolutionary; and is only morally competent, like war, upon failure of justice."  The South chose the method of secession and how it would be decided, not Lincoln, and did so by initiating trial-by-combat for reasons, in my own view, did not come close to the reasons of 1776.


Sincerely,

Unionblue

Last edited on Mon Nov 30th, 2009 01:20 am by Unionblue



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