|View single post by Unionblue|
|Posted: Tue Dec 1st, 2009 04:48 am||
|Texas Defender wrote:
TexasDefender, I would be honored if you would continue.
My post answering yours was of course not addressing whether or not the: "leaders of secession" were justified in their actions. That is another question entirely. The purpose of my post was to dispute the statement: "....in their hearts and minds, the leaders of secession knew they had no moral, political, or legal ground to justify their attempt at rebellion." It seems that we are now in agreement that they at least felt justified.
I can agree with you that the leaders of secession FELT they were justified, but I remain firm in my opinion that they knew if they attempted a legal course of action with the Supreme Court, they would not be able to justify secession by any legal means. I also believe the leaders of secession knew they had no political grounds by which they could justify secession, as a majority of the country felt secession could not be justified by political means (an amendment to the Constitution, a national referrendum, etc.). As for the moral grounds for secession, what was the issue that troubled the South the most? The tariff? Hardly as the tariff in place was considered almost a 'free trade' one. The upcoming vote on the Morril Tariff? It had been designed to replace the existing tariff and had nothing within it to cause and sense of forboding with the Southern states. Excessive federal government interference? From an army of 16,000 men, two thirds of which was scattered West of the Mississippi in company sized units fighting indians and manning isolated forts? A government which employed a handful of federal marshals and a part-time attorney general? Yes, TexasDefender, I am sure the leaders of secession felt justified in attempting secession, but it was justified to protect the institution of slavery and over the idea that the federal government was too weak to stop it, hence my view that they lacked a moral justification also.
I do believe that it did matter who became president on March 4, 1861. A man less determined to preserve the Union at all costs might have allowed a peaceful separation. My contention is that Mr. Lincoln came into office determined that federal authority would be upheld or there would be a war. Perhaps if he had been seen as less threatening by the southerners, they would not have acted as they did. But the reality is that he was, and they did. And even if the final accounting could have been delayed once more, it could not be delayed forever.
I am less inclined to go with the election of Lincoln greatly increased the idea there would be fighting over the issues that brought such actions to its final conclusion. If Seward or Chase had been nominated at the Republican convention, the South would have seceded just as quickly as it did with Lincoln. I also believe if Stephen Douglass had been elected ( a neat trick, I admit) the South would have seceded over Douglass's policy of letting the citizens of a territory decide the issue of slavery in a new state (popular sovereignty). The other two candidates didn't stand a chance out of that four-party race in 1860, in my view, but Southern secession was coming no matter who won the office. The issue was slavery in the territories, slavery in the United States, slavery being forced into the Free States and slavery's continued push for expansion elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. The threat to the institution was never going away unless the South could be assured that it would go away forever.
As for the legality of secession, Chief Justice Taney's opinion would count as only one vote in a Supreme Court decision (as in the Dred Scott decision, where he was one of the majority of seven voting against Scott). How the complete court might have voted on the question is not known to me.
Taney was much admired and respected at the time, in spite of the hostile viewing of his Dred Scott ruling. Much of the Court was from the South and had Southern leanings. My point is, the South didn't even try to get a reading from the Court. It does make for interesting speculation, however.
To the: "leaders of secession," however, the opinion of the US Supreme Court on the matter was irrelevant. Their position on the Constitution was that since it did not forbid secession, then it was allowed under the 9th and 10th Amendments.
It was irrelevant to the leaders of secession because they knew they could not seek justifying secession under the Constitution. If not, why not appeal secession to the Supreme Court? The only reason NOT to do so is that you know you can't win via that avenue.
Argue the question if you wish, but you can't demonstrate that the Constitution forbids secession.
A document, created after the Articles of Confederation which recognized the individual sovereignty of the states fell flat on its face and almost destroyed the nation, which was conceived to form a "more perfect union" has a very strong argument against a concept nowhere mentioned within its borders, IMO.
And if as you contend, that the question was resolved previously to the war, then there would have been no need for it to be argued in the 1869 Supreme Court decision Texas v. White.
And yet, TexasDefender, we have all those Presidents who denied the concept of secession was ever an option under the Constitution. We have President Jackson telling South Carolina it was not there nor was the option to nullify federal laws to be found within the document. We have Zachory Taylor, telling Southern representatives that if they attempt to lead their states in secession, he would personally lead the army against them and hang them higher than Haman for their actions. We have the South itself speaking against New England, saying there can be no such thing as secession, actively calling such attempts treason, during the War of 1812. And then we have the majority of the South speaking out against South Carolina in 1830 during the nullification crisis and during the Congressional elections of 1850, when secessionist candidates proposed secession from the Union. If we also add all of the Congressional debates on the topic, especially the Webster-Hayne debates, secession was long doubted to be an option under the Constitution, no matter which section one would mention. The actions taken to justify it from 1861-1865 also proved inadequate to support the concept.
The question argued then was whether or not Texas had remained a US state even after it seceded. (We here in Texas also have the additional question of whether or not the Treaty of 1845 between the Republic of Texas and the US still applies).
I consider Texas v. White a period at the end of a paragraph, not the beginning of a new sentence. As for the Treaty of 1845 question, a careful reading of later actions might show that the Republic of Texas applied to be a State within the Union and Congress granted the request. My view is that it was a sovereign nation that gave up that position to become a part of the sovereign nation of the United States. What happens in the future cannot be based upon a status that was willingly given up to gain a new status within a new nation, IMO.
Ed's analogy to a no fault divorce can be used. In such a case. there is no need to prove anyone guilty of any offense, only to point out that differences cannot be reconciled. The southerners decided that that was the case. They decided that their actions were justified, and they acted.
Forgive me, as I am not a lawyer, but does not a no-fault divorce have to be agreed upon by both parties? Again if the husband feels justified that he owns the living room, the master bedroom, the bathroom, and then has to fire on his wife to take over the garage, is this considered no fault when the wife has no input as to what is taken or if she is shot at? Besides, we are in no way talking about a simple, no-fault divorce here, but of about a significant part of a nation attempting to leave and to leave with assets that belong to ALL of the nation. This is precisely my point. The SOUTH decided and THEY acted. And we are living with the results in the present day.
I have to wonder if Chief Justice Taney was aware of a statement made in 1848 by a young Whig congressman, when criticizing : "Mr. Polk's War" against Mexico. He said: "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 which we hope and believe is to liberate the world."
I am very familar with the young man's comments, especially with the oft-lifted part of the above speech. We both know he speaks of rebellion, not a legal attempt at smoke and mirrors to accomplish the same without firing a shot.
The name of the young Whig congressman was Abraham Lincoln.
I wonder if the southern leaders shouldn't have taken the time to read all of Mr. Lincoln's speech, pause, and reconsider what they were about to attempt. Well, I can wonder all I wish about what "might have been." But history is all that I am left with.
So, the southerners shook off the existing government. But it turned out in the end, as General Joseph E. Johnston said much later, that while secession might not have been illegal, it was in this case certainly impractical.
We should emphathize "might not have been illegal" as no Southerner who led the South into the firey path of secession ever contemplated finding out if it were, and change "impractical" to imprudent.
Belief does not make truth. Evidence makes truth. And belief does not make evidence.