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My reading of Secession Documents on a Snowy day. - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2013 01:09 am
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MildMan
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On a recent snowy day I took the time to read all the secession proclamations and the reasons for secession provided in separate documents by some seceding states. I found six that gave specific reasons for secession, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Alabama. You can see four of these documents at http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html

I have heard it rationalized that southern secession was all about states rights. That is true, but the state’s right of most concern to those writing explanations for secession, was the right to slavery. All six of the states that prepared formal documents to support or provide reasons for secession, mention threats to the continuation of salary as the first specific complaint against Northern States. I suspect that if I also read the minutes of secession conventions for other states, I would find that the other states also found threats to slavery as the primary complaint against the north.

So it may be popular to characterize secession and the creation of The Confederacy as a noble cause, but the noble cause they were fighting for was slavery.

Yes, I understand that most Americans at that time, North and South viewed negroes as an inferior race. However, slavery had already been abolished in most civilized countries. It was viewed as an evil in too many places for secessionists to seriously hold the moral high ground in their defense of slavery.

So I have to agree with Grant when he said, "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause thought that was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."

By the way, the South Carolina Secession document lays out a nice case for the legal justification for secession. Quite convincing actually.



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 11:40 pm
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MildMan
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Its interesting to me that there were 5 comments to a post about Jeff Davis's eye problem and NONE to my post. Is this a discussion board where members only want to discuss trival issues? Or a discussion board where postings that even mention an issue contrary to 'Lost Cause" myths is ignored?

Come on, how about some factual discussion of IMPORTANT topics!:?

Last edited on Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 11:41 pm by MildMan



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 09:23 pm
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JG6789
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The faction of the Cherokee Nation that threw its lot in with the South also issued a declaration of causes.  An excerpt:

“The Cherokee people had its origin in the South; its institutions are similar to those of the Southern States, and their interests identical with theirs…Whatever causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past, to complain of some of the Southern States, they cannot but feel that their interests and their destiny are inseparably connected with those of the South. The war now raging is a war of Northern cupidity and fanaticism against the institution of African servitude.”

 

What do you find convincing about SC's reasoning?

Last edited on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 09:24 pm by JG6789



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 10:13 pm
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MildMan
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Good to hear from you!

Do you find it odd that the Cherokees sided with any white man? After all they were not treated well by Andrew Jackson and the government of Georgia.

Yes it is interesting that even the Cherokees mention northern resistance to slavery as a reason to secede.

And to respond to your question…

The South Carolina secession document makes a number of assertions. I found most compelling its recount of revolutionary period history, rather than the expression of a long list of grievances that it makes later.

1) The Declaration of Independence declared the colonies “free and independent states”
2) The D of I states that when "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government."
3) The peace treaty with Great Britain declared that the colonies are “free, sovereign and independent states.”
4) The constitution was agreed to by Separate sovereign states, and had not all the states agreed to the constitution they would have remained sovereign states
5) The amendment that states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”

In 1869, the Supreme Court, I assume based on its interpretation of the constitution, ruled that secession was illegal at the time South Carolina seceded in 1860. I have not read this decision so I don’t know if it addressed the five items above. Still the point about the right to abolish and institute a new government is hard to argue with.



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 10:38 pm
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JG6789
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MildMan wrote: Do you find it odd that the Cherokees sided with any white man? After all they were not treated well by Andrew Jackson and the government of Georgia.
 

Indeed.  That's clearly what they are referencing here: "Whatever causes the Cherokee people may have had in the past, to complain of some of the Southern States..."

Last edited on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 10:39 pm by JG6789



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 10:57 pm
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MildMan wrote: And to respond to your question…

The South Carolina secession document makes a number of assertions. I found most compelling its recount of revolutionary period history, rather than the expression of a long list of grievances that it makes later.

1) The Declaration of Independence declared the colonies “free and independent states”
2) The D of I states that when "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government."
3) The peace treaty with Great Britain declared that the colonies are “free, sovereign and independent states.”
4) The constitution was agreed to by Separate sovereign states, and had not all the states agreed to the constitution they would have remained sovereign states

 

I think that this first portion of South Carolina’s declaration that outlines the history of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation is an exercise in sophistry.  Whatever relationship existed among the states under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation was rendered moot by the adoption of the constitution of 1787.   The authors of the South Carolina’s declaration of causes seem to concede this point when they write:

“If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were-- separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitution until long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.”

The implication, of course, is that once these states ratified the constitution they ceased to be sovereign states.  This was, in fact, something that the delegates to the constitutional convention discussed at the time.  James Madison’s argument, the argument of all of the Federalists—who ultimately prevailed, of course—was that the states are not sovereign, but rather, “they are only political societies…the states never possessed the essential rights of sovereignty.  These were always vested in Congress.”  Ratification of the constitution strongly suggests acceptance of this argument.


 

Last edited on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 11:18 pm by JG6789



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 11:06 pm
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JG6789
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MildMan wrote: 5) The amendment that states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”

 

The discussion surrounding this is more complicated than it looks.  It was the primary source of disagreement between the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Hamiltonian Federalists.  Over the course of the first decades of the Republic, though, even the Republicans came to accept that the Federal government possessed at least some “implied powers” (as Hamilton argued by way of the “necessary and proper clause” of the constitution).  The Supreme Court under John Marshall agreed.  So the issue would seem to have been settled legally.  Which is not to say that the political parties didn’t disagree over the extent of those powers. 



 Posted: Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 11:06 pm
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JG6789
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By the way, good topic.  I find this far more interesting than either Jefferson Davis or his hair (although I did see a lock of his hair in the relic room of the first Confederate White House in Montgomery, Alabama).

Last edited on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 11:21 pm by JG6789



 Posted: Sun Feb 24th, 2013 08:13 pm
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MildMan
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Thanks for the insights JG6789. I do not know much about the Federalist period or the political debates that were going on at that time.

I am not saying I agree with the South Carolina argument for secession, just that the arguments are at first, stated clearly and pass a straight face test. However the whole document is defiant and confrontative – as if the act of secession is entirely the fault of the North. Ironically, this anger was provoked by the election of Lincoln, an event that southerners could have been prevented by not splitting the Democratic Party! And in April 1861 they compounded their error and dared the north to fight, by firing on a fort days before it was going to be evacuated.

Consequently I categorize the document of secession, and secession itself as the work of “hot heads” rather than thoughtful leaders or politicians. Had Southerners pursued another course, they might have seceded without war.

The SC secession document calls the constitution “a compact between the states”. My understanding of legal agreements is that they are binding on both parties, but can be terminated though mutual agreement. It is possible that Northerners faced with an unhappy marriage, might given in secession to avoid aggravation. But SC decided to exit a legal agreement, unilaterally without negotiation - then declared war to boot!

Those that have heard my argument say that Lincoln would never have allowed that. To which I counter, he was an unproven and possibly powerless President in 1861. It was war that gave him immense power. Others have said war was inevitable, and I respond that war was inevitable only after Fort Sumter. It was the south that wanted war, to unite the states of the confederacy.

I appreciate our discussion of ideas. Unfortunately, some on this discussion board are more interested in perpetuating the “lost cause” mythology than exploring ideas. My analysis of southern leader’s decisions (and the other alternatives they had) and my mention of what secession documents say about the reasons for secession (perpetuation of slavery) does not fit with the mythology and leads to a stony silence….

Last edited on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 08:16 pm by MildMan



 Posted: Sun Feb 24th, 2013 08:24 pm
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MildMan
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And I agree with your point about postings on Jeff Davis. There are good reasons that there are zillions of books on Lincoln that "far fewer historians have studied the life of Jefferson Davis".

Last edited on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 08:28 pm by MildMan



 Posted: Mon Feb 25th, 2013 10:52 am
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I've got very mixed feelings on whether secession was legal or not. I've heard southerners gripe about it and they make some good points. But the Constitution is an agreement that we are all in this together. America would never have become as strong as it has without the South. My closest ancestors were all Union Army vets so basically that is why I view it as being illegal.

Lincoln would never ever have allowed the south to go peacefully. Without Ft Sumter he would have tried peaceful means to bring them back. But there were a lot of US Government properties in the south. Any one of those could have become a Ft Sumter. Ft Sumter gave him no options other than raising an army to restore order.

There really was no reason for the south to secede over Lincoln's election. It was one of the dumbest political moves in my opinion. He had no intention of destroying the Southern slave owners power. He hadn't made any statements concerning their destruction. Just a total miscalculation by them. The fire-eaters ran the show in 1860-61 and brought it all on.



 Posted: Tue Feb 26th, 2013 02:09 am
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MildMan
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I think you nailed it BHR62.

Southern leaders made some very bad decisions. They didm't fight a noble cause, they started a military war without fighting the political battle to the end first.



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