Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

I have an idea...let’s talk about Lincoln!

I’m not going to be the first one on NLT to respond to dain’s call for a positive defense of Lincoln, or an explanation of why conservatives should appreciate him. That, I think, belongs in the realm of normative political theory, and I’m but a simple historian.

What I will do is offer the historian’s perspective, which is that the question of whether or not Lincoln violated the Constitution in using force to keep the South in the Union is ultimately irrelevant. Show me the president who, when faced with the choice between the Constitution and political survival, chose the former over the latter. Jefferson ignored the Constitution in making the Louisiana Purchase; Jackson ignored it whenever he felt like he had to; Teddy Roosevelt ignored it in seizing Colombian territory to build the Panama Canal; FDR ignored it in implementing the New Deal. As I’ve written elsewhere, the overwhelming sentiment--in Congress and in the public at large--was that the Union had to be preserved at all costs. Had Lincoln refused to coerce the South he would have been impeached. It would have been the same had he tried to surrender Fort Sumter. Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first vice president, was a lot more radical than Lincoln was--imagine what would have happened if he had ended up in the White House.

Lincoln did what he had to do--what any rational politician would have done in similar circumstances. He did it in the face of an independent-minded Congress, a defiant Cabinet, and a public that was screaming for blood--and in the end he did it rather well. That’s what I admire about him.

Now excuse me, I’m off to write a biography of Howard Cosell.

Discussions - 118 Comments

I don’t know that I have any problem with the "he had to do it or he would be impeached" argument. That’s probably true. Of course, if it had not been for the disingenuous arguments he made about the founder’s intent before the war, the South would not have declared independence.

My only problem with what you say above concerns Jefferson. The Louisiana Purchase was a treaty made with France. Representatives of the president negotiated it. The Senate ratified it. The House raised the fifteen million dollars to finalize it. The idea that the Purchase was somehow unconstitutional is a Federalist canard.

Not exactly the thread I’m looking for, and for obvious reasons. I suppose expendiency is a virtue at times, but hardly the stuff of heroic legend. NLT folks, what is totemic about Lincoln.

. . . the question of whether or not Lincoln violated the Constitution in using force to keep the South in the Union is ultimately irrelevant.

That is a bit strange coming even from a simple historian. Your point seems to be that northern opinion expected him to do what he did, and would have demanded no less. OK, that gets us maybe to the fall of 1861, to the initial war effort (defining it as a rebellion). Your implication seems to be that any president would have done the same. But what about his deft management of the war�s shifting purposes thereafter, and his leadership into altogether uncharted territory.

The fact that Lincoln acted expediently hardly touches the subjects that have prompted such fury on this blog. Those subjects include both history and political philosophy.

An additional related point. In the late 1850s, as you well know, Stephen Douglas charged that Lincoln, in seeking to create a new party opposed to the extension of slavery on principled grounds, was in effect playing with fire. If Douglas was right, Lincoln took the risk for the sake of power. In other words, Lincoln helped create, quite deliberately, the circumstances he faced in 1861 - created, according to you, the choice between impeachment and the use of force against the rebellion.

Come on, Mr. Philosopher...go away. We are beginning to make progress here...take a hint. Your point of view is being represented by people who don’t have to use epithets to make their points.

Comment 4: Did Douglas put it that way?

Lincoln wasn’t attempting to create a new party. Granted the GOP was young.

The Republican party existed before the Lincoln - Douglas debates. And it was opposed to the extension of slavery.

We lack the power to read Lincoln’s mind. We can read his words. And it looks to me as if he followed a steady policy about slavery, secession, and executive power while a citizen and as President.

I have heard the idea that Lincoln knew exactly how to infuriate the south while not obviously provoking them. That would have been brilliant indeed.

Considering the way the south behaved in political matters for decades I doubt they grew hot-tempered and seceded because of a hidden message in his words.

I�m paraphrasing, from the Debates. Douglas sought to evade your point; that is, from Lincoln�s point of view, Douglas exaggerated Lincoln�s role in creating the Illinois party and in doing so foreshortened the history of the party. Some of Lincoln�s fellow Whigs, Rufus Choate for example, made essentially the same charge: that Lincoln�s version of the Republican Party, founding itself on the natural rights principle of the Declaration, was being needlessly and dangerously provocative.

It�s also worth remembering that throughout his career Lincoln saw slavery as a national wrong and national problem, not a sign of especially Southern evil-doing. At Cooper Union (my favorite formulation) he said to his NYC audience that "we" would behave exactly the same were we in their position. This may have led him to underestimate the pent-up anger and resentment on both sides by 1861.

There is a certain conventional wisdom that suggests that Lincoln tried to reach out to Southerners in his Cooper Union speech. But when I read the speech I fail to see it. He even pokes fun at the Southern accent! Towards the end of the speech he mocks the "gur-reat purrinciple" that the states should themselves choose whether to permit slavery rather than having the federal government make the choice for them.

Another piece of conventional wisdom asserts that Lincoln underestimated how serious the Confederates were about maintaining their independence. I don’t see that either. When he leaves Springfield in February of 1861 he tells the people that he has "a task before me greater than that which rested up Washington." I hope he was talking about Washington in 1789, because if he meant Washington in 1775 that would be ridiculous.

Republican party platform of 1856.

The reference to the "ulterior design of our Federal Government" makes it look as if the Straussians have been active for longer than we suspect.

That was a joke, of course.

"For the most trifling reasons, and sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his majesty has rejected laws of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire in those colonies, where it was unhappily introduced in their infant state. But previous to the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations from Africa; yet our repeated attempts to effect this by prohibitions, and by imposing duties which might amount to a prohibition, have been hitherto defeated by his majesty’s negative: Thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few African corsairs to the lasting interests of the American states, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous practice."
- Thomas Jefferson, ’A Summary View of the Rights of British America’

Abolition of slavery was not something ginned up or something that was just a product of the 19th century or something that was done to expand the power of the federal government. It has long roots, just as long as the practice of slavery in America. And I find it interesting that Thomas Jefferson recognized such things.

Lincoln’s words in the debates in no way helped create the secession mess.

No, it was the realization from the the slave-holding states that their power in the federal government to keep slavery alive was truly in jeapordy because they no longer had the influence they once had.

Representatives from South Carolina and other southern, slave states would not sign onto the current Constitution if the compromise regarding slaves were not in place. That is power, that is influence. However, by the mid-1800’s they were being checked on every level and, with the election of Lincoln, a moderate in regards to abolition of slavery, they saw the end of slavery itself and, in their view, their very way of life, the life of slavery, holding bondage over others.

Lincoln was the last straw, but even if there was never a Lincoln, there would have been someone or something that would be the last straw and the crisis would have ensued anyway, just at a different time.

Jefferson Davis is very astute when he notes in his Message to Congress, Confederate States of Congress, April 29, 1861, that "[a]s soon ... as the Northern States that prohibited African slavery within their limits had reached a number sufficient to give their representation a controlling voice in the Congress, a persistent and organized system of hostile measures against the rights of the owners of slaves in the Southern States was inaugurated and gradually extended".

It should be noted, though, that Jefferson Davis, in that very same speech attempted to make slavery something that was beneficial to the slave and that the slave, by the very fact of their bondage in America, were now "docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction."

But, then again, slavery was just a small, ancillary aspect of the reasons for secession ... yeah ... right.

Yea, Dale, sure, but what explains the secession of Virginia or Tennessee? They were pushed into the Confederacy by Lincoln’s warmongering. This is a matter of record...I encourage you to look at the sequence of States leaving the Union.

The fact is, slavery was extinguished peacefully everywhere but the United States. I wonder why?

Once again Dale, those words you quote in no. 10 refer to the Atlantic slave trade. The Virginians at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 voted to end the Atlantic slave trade right away. South Carolina, allied with Connecticut, manipulated the Convention into protecting it for another twenty years.

In nearly every speech Lincoln made before 1861 he claimed that the South planned to re-open the Atlantic slave trade. But when the delegates of the seven deep South states met at the Montgomery Convention in 1861 they voted to keep it closed. And that was without the presence of the Upper South, which had not yet seceded.

And, once again Dale, if states that want to preserve slavery have no right to declare independence, you had better start pushing for your home state to go back to Mexico. After all, Texans left Mexico in part because Mexico tried to abolish slavery.

And Virginians declared independence in 1776, in part, because the Royal Governor issued a proclamation freeing the slaves of that state.

So do you think we should give the eastern seaboard back to Britain and Texas back to Mexico?

And, even to this day, millions of Americans believe the right to secession exists. Even some Yankees!

Refer back to the 4 declarations to secession and you will see EXACTLY why there was no peaceful ending to slavery in America and why there could never be one.

Some here talk about how the Southern Cause was really about the North trampling on the Southern way of life. Well, you are right. The North was seen as stamping slavery out, bit by bit, and THAT is the way of life that the South believed they had a Constitutional right to continue. Since they beleived they couldn’t solve the issue any other way, they left the Union.

Brutus, you miss the point completely when I quoted Jefferson, a slave owner, condemning the slave trade.

Even a slave owner could easily see that the very institution that the Southern states left the Union to keep was a detriment to humanity.

Regarding your last post ... please, stop while your ahead.

Well, Dale, you are entitled to your opinion...but there is nothing conservative about it. Someday the East and West Coasters may decide that religion is a dangerous illusion, and (under your moral rules) they may decide to "stamp out" the Bible Belt. And you will have nothing to say about it except "Way to go!" Indeed, this is what the "culture war" is about...the aggressive use of the Federal Government to disadvantage a way of life. Sure, slavery was wrong, but for some people so was factory work.

Well Dale I definately am ahead, which is where I end up every time I debate you. If I missed the point of number ten then please reiterate it.

And the idea that slavery could not have ended peacefully is absurd. Canada did it. The North did it. The British West Indies did it. Mexico did it. Cuba did it. Brazil did it.

Only two new world slave societies required war to bring about abolition: Haiti and the United States. Talk about a failure of statesmanship.

Sure, slavery was wrong, but for some people so was factory work.

So we’re supposed to believe that moral relativism is a conservative viewpoint?

Moral relativity, John? There have been studies that demonstrate the quality of life of slaves was actually higher than immigrants in Northern factories. I’m using the only objective standard...the well-being of the human animal. We can talk about theoretical "freedom," but the fact was that hundreds of thousands of immigrants in New York and Chicago had no more real choice in their lives than did slaves. Karl Marx thought that slavery was wrong for a couple of reasons: First, because it was exploitative. Second, because it was far less efficient than wage-slavery...and efficiency was needed to propel the inevitability of the Revolution.

I am not arguing FOR was an evil that the world is well shed of. But moral crusading at the point of a gun is always questionable...don’t you agree? And who’s to say what the next moral crusade will be? In general, slow moral suasion and social evolution are preferable to total war...surely we can agree here. There are times when the harm is so great and immediate that force is the only moral option (e.g., the Holocaust), but in the case of slavery I suspect that the advent of machinery, overseas competition in cotton production, and "moral" evolution would have caught up with Southern slavery in short order. Did it really require the obliteration of Southern society, the extermination of its best families, and the conversion of the South into an internal colony for a century to end slavery? I don’t think so.

And I also might add the hypocrisy of the North. It was easy being all high-and-mighty when all the black folks were "Down South," but when they began to migrant en mass to Northern cities decades later, how were they greeted? I’ll tell you how...with segregation and massive discrimination. Even to this day, the South gives more of its culture and real social life to black people than the North ever has or will, despite all that Yankee piety.

Brutus, are you serious in your assertion that the United States could end slavery in America without some sort of force?

You can’t assert such a thing with honesty. There is nothing to document that it would work. Nothing.

However, there is ample evidence from the south that slavery was the main reason, if not the sole reason, that they created that mess.

It is clear that you aren’t willing to argue with the facts.

"In the meantime, under the mild and genial climate of the Southern States and the increasing care and attention for the wellbeing and comfort of the laboring class, dictated alike by interest and humanity, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slaveholding States had augmented from about 1,250,000 at the date of the adoption of the Constitution to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced."
- President Jefferson Davis, CSA, Message to Congress April 29, 1861 (regarding the ratification of the constitution)

Was President Davis lying? What danger were the southern states trying to avoid?

Brutus, you are arguing with nothing to back you up.

As I asked before, please stop while you are ahead and I don’t me ahead of me, if anyone is truly keeping score.

It should be noted that the international slave trade was non-existant by the time of the Civil War. Slavery was being kept alive and growing without the need of outside additions.

So to assert that this would go away peacefully via a stroke of pen or by many strokes of a pen over time is preposterous.

I’m using the only objective standard...the well-being of the human animal. We can talk about theoretical "freedom," but the fact was that hundreds of thousands of immigrants in New York and Chicago had no more real choice in their lives than did slaves. Karl Marx thought that slavery was wrong for a couple of reasons: First, because it was exploitative. Second, because it was far less efficient than wage-slavery...and efficiency was needed to propel the inevitability of the Revolution.

It’s funny you should mention Marx, because you’re arguing along essentially Marxian lines--bourgeois "freedom" means slavery for the proletariat. I agree with everything you say about the dangers of moral crusading, and the hypocrisy of many northerners when it came to race, but how can you call this warmed-over Marxism conservative?

Dale says this of the possibility of peaceful abolition: "You can’t assert such a thing with honesty. There is nothing to document that it would work. Nothing."

In the United States abolition occurred at the point of a gun. That’s a fact. To say that abolition could have occured in peaceful manner, as it did in the British West Indies, Cuba and Brazil (all states that featured slave majorities), is to make what historians call a "counter-factual argument."

Historians do not like counter-factual arguments because, by definition, one can not find any "facts to back them up." That means that I can’t find any and you can’t find any. Now if you want to continue to argue in that way we can.

And who today is arguing along similar lines that restriction of freedom is actually better than real freedom?

Dale quotes the following from Jefferson Davis: "With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced."

The danger that faced the South was the danger of abolition at the point of a gun. That danger had been faced by only one other place in the New World: Haiti. In Haiti the slaves killed all the whites and then killed many of the mixed-race peoples. Davis suggests that in order to secure their self-preservation the South must leave the Union. Under the philosophy of modern natural rights the most important right of all is self-preservation.

Davis, like Jefferson, believed in the philosophy of modern natural rights as expressed in the Declaraton of Independence. And like many in the Anglo-American world he believed in the power of precedent. Just as his father fought as an officer in the Revolution, so would he fight to win independence for his people.

Do you believe that people have the right to self-preservation?

Do you realize, Brutus, you have proved my point that slavery was the cause for the Civil War?

Abolition of slavery meant the demise of the southern way of life ... correct? Then the Civil War was all about slavery.

The North’s refusal to recognize the independence of the southern states caused the war. That’s a fact.

Dale, I do wish you’d read a little history about the South. Of course slavery was an important part of the civil war, but it wasn’t the only thing that mattered, and demonstrably it was a minor issue in the minds of the men who actually did the fighting (on both sides). What Davis or Stephens thought or wrote is far less important than the fact that the Southern (white) population overwhelming supported secession (when only 5% owned any slaves).

John, I’m not a Marxist, but Marxists do insist on moral crusades. The reason I brought him up is to demonstrate the similarity between abolitionist zeal and communist zeal...same zeal, different issue. It is a very dangerous thing to support such zeal, even with something as evil as slavery. The irony is, people like John Brown and Che Guevara killed people in the name of "freedom." You support one but not the other, but I see no philosophical reason for the distinction. The hacienda system in Latin America is serfdom if not slavery, and Che thought he was fighting against that. Did we have the right to want him stopped? Do we have the right to wish Lincoln had not invaded the South?

dain, you make no sense.

Gentlemen, I’m going to make a promise that I’m probably not going to be able to keep. I’m going to sign off from this debate for a while. I’ve got to stop obsessively checking this webpage! Have a good weekend.

I’m perfectly clear, Dale. I think this is a case of "leading a horse to water." Go thirsty, if you will.

Dain, you claim to believe that slavery is evil, and I’m inclined to believe you. What I don’t understand is what basis you have for making such a moral judgment. You said above that the only objective standard by which a human institution can and should be based is "the well-being of the human animal." Why, then, draw any distinction between slavery and freedom? I wager that if you had asked any poor immigrant working in the textile mills of New England if he would switch places with a plantation slave, he would say no. Further, I would wager that any plantation slave would have jumped at the chance to switch places with a northern factory worker.

You claim not to be a Marxist, and again, I believe you, but this business of "the well-being of the human animal" is the very essence of Marxism, as well as of 20th century liberalism. Your discussion of John Brown and Che Guevara sounds oddly like the idea that "one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter," as if it were impossible to draw distinctions between the man who is fighting for liberty and the one who is fighting for tyranny. Of course, with neither Natural Law nor revealed religion to guide you, it is, I suppose, unsurprising that you ultimately base your beliefs in materialism, but, then again, so did all the totalitarian dictators of the 20th century.

No contradiction, John, and my use of materialism was only a (possibly vain) attempt to find a universal standard to demonstrate my point: Morality-based violence is a double-edged sword. If "natural law" permits society A to attack and obliterate society B based on B’s moral failings, then almost any society may be susceptible to righteous attack and destruction. In short, it’s not a good principle because every society has serious failings, some more so than others, of course, but the perception of degree is often culturally relative. This is a simple fact. I think it probably IS a good principle that attacking and remaking a society in self-defense is legitimate (sometimes people just don’t give you a choice...the Nazis, for instance), but Lincoln need not do what he did.

As for "natural law," as I’ve said before, it’s a oxymoron. Nature grants only the right to struggle for survival...that’s it, nothing else. "Rights" are a system of social claims, and the standards by which those claims are judged change with societies and time periods. I think slavery is an evil because I grew up in the 20th Century. Throughout history, however, people have engaged in slavery (based on class, ethnicity, race, gender, age, whatever) and have no lost a lick of sleep over it. Believing in "natural law" is OK, John, if it gives you a compass in life. On the other hand, when you favor using guns and bombs to make other communities comform to your notions of universal right and wrong, that’s not conservative. What you are doing is following the REAL natural law, which is essentially the amoral struggle to dominate. Different societies have different ways of prettying it up, but at the end of the day people manage to serve their own self-interests fairly well (which is why I’m not a Marxist...I don’t believe that tinkering with the economy will make us moral animals...I’m a conservative).

Dain, I largely agree that it is problematic for one community to impose its moral standards on another Indeed, I am inclined to go even further and suggest that it is problematic for one individual to impose his standards on another. However, my concern is that your method of reasoning effectively robs you of the ability to make any moral judgments, even for yourself. By your account, had you grown up in Nazi Germany, you might just as well believe that it is perfectly acceptable to kill Jews.

Also, while you are right to say that virtually every civilization in history practiced slavery of some sort, the slavery that developed in the Western Hemisphere--chattel slavery, in which people were born into slavery and would spend their entire lives in that condition--was something unprecedented, and particularly vile.

More vile than the Aztecs sacrificing 40K people in a single day? More vile that the exploitation of women in China, or the enslavement/rape of Nanking by the Japanese? How about the use of people for food in New Guinea and the Amazon? Naw, humans can be appalling creatures...slavery in the New World was a one-off thing brought about by the discovery of a couple of new continents and European technology. The SCALE of it...I’ll give you that, but even there American slavery was FAR more humane than other forms of slavery elsewhere in the New World. How do we know that? Survival rates...slaves were strictly disposable in the Caribbean and Brazil.

Still, plenty horrendous, I agree. But of course I have a way of judging culture has taught me to be critical of the Nazis and yes, even Southern slaveholders (you’d be surprised how often I cuss ’em). We just have to be honest...these are our standards, and if we want to think of them as universal we can certainly pretend this is so. I would hope, however, that we have the wisdom not to engage in some quixotic, Wilson crusade to "fulfill" the universal moral code around the globe.

For instance, I’m very angry with Osama Bin Laden, not because he has failed to understand universal norms about warfare, but precisely because he has violated my standards...he has disobeyed the Rules of War, and he has done so knowing that he can’t beat us in a proper fight. As Victor Davis Hansen has noted, this idea of manly "fairplay" in war is peculiar to the West. So, far from being riddled with relativist self-doubt, I want OBL dead, and I’m not to picky about how it’s done. It’s either our way or Darwin’s way...and that’s fine with me.

Am I being clear? For Lincolnophiles, I would like them to be honest about what happened. A stronger, more populous country kicked the hell out of a smaller, thinly-populated one...after a good fight. The Northerners were not Holy Warriors and the Southerners were not was simply two kindred people pursuing their own self-interests. Period...and let’s not do that again.

There is one logical problem that has always bothered me about Lincoln’s position concerning the South. He claimed it was illegal (which it was), yet I believe he said all people had the right to revolution in his first inaugural. I believe his argument was that the South’s politicans cried State’s rights because that was the "politically correct" term to use, but of course a term does not change the reality of a thing. It seems to me the south clearly did revolt (they were even called rebels).

What I would like to know (please no crazy comments) is did the South have a right to revolution, and if did, how should the North have responded? Are we stuck with Locke’s "Appeal to Heaven" and is that why Lincoln’s second inaugural spoke so much about God; Lincoln is implying God rejected the South’s revolution because the cause was unholy?

#41: There is no right to revolt unless there is no right to suppress a revolt. The two are exclusive. ’Right’ seems the wrong word.

Revolt is a choice - some you win, some you don’t.

And if you hedge with ’sometimes’ or ’this time they did’ then you just replace law with your preference.

A couple of legal thoughts:

The Constitution says the federal government may suppress rebellion. The framers were probably thinking of a local coup rather than an entire regional uprising. Does it matter when the power is stated.

Futher, the states cannot make agreements between themselves without the approval of the federal government.

Now two fuzzy parts:

Secession is not mentioned in the Constitution. It might therefore be a right reserved to the states and the people. Is it?

And some states were formed from purely federal territory after the Constitution was adopted. There was utterly no argument that they were creations of the Union not independent entities.

Thus Virginia had rather a stronger secession argument than Louisiana.


The Southern blunder was to withdraw from the federal government and attack federal territory (Ft. Sumter). They should have petitioned Congress for secession using legal arguments and propaganda. And offering to pay for federal facilities in the South.

Had the South not attacked it is probable that the disgusted North would have let them go as a practical matter.

Many would have been glad to see their backsides - as the expression goes. Or,
more tersely, "don’t let the door hit you in the ass."

I think you’re right, Steve, but I don’t believe the South ever claimed to be engaging in a revolution - they thought they were simply exercising their rights as states. However, any claims to revolution would have been based on shakey ground considering Lincoln had been democratically elected and had promised not to touch slavery in states where it already existed, so I would say that in the instance of the South they did not, in fact, have a right to revolution. I’m pretty sure Locke would say you only have a right to revolution when your rights are being abrogated; you can’t join a civil society and then violently leave any time you lose and election. I am interested to hear what people who agree (and hopefully know what they’re talking about more than me) or disagree with me have to say on the subject.

Secession vs. revolution. The right to revolution is an individual right attached to the nature of human beings. Human beings are natural, God created things. They make up the social compact. Each human being has a right to revolt when his natural rights are abrogated. See Locke and Jefferson. Secession only refers to states. Whatever states are, they are not human beings with natural rights. There is nothing sacred about states.

Hmm...we keep going over the same ground. First, where in the Constitution does it say that "rebellion" by States is illegal? It says something about paying debts incurred during rebellion, and something about holding office if you are a rebel, but I can’t find anything referring directly to the Federal Government’s right to quail rebellion.

Second, ’K’ -- about States making agreements with one another, the future Confederates were quite careful about that. They seceded and ONLY THEN joined the Confederacy. At the time of their joining this new polity, they were no longer States under the Federal Constitution, and therefore no longer bound by its rules. A legal nicety, yes, but legal nonetheless.

As for "revolt" versus "secession," rather meaningless. John Locke did not lay down the binding law for all time...he was simply a philosopher. His theory of the compact, which was influential in the Declaration of Independence, is NOT a legally binding document. I wish people would understand that. Lincoln’s use of the D of I was never legitimate...only the Constitution determined what was and was not legal. That’s true even to this day.

And, just to say this ONE MORE TIME, the Tenth Amendment is quite clear about un-enumerated "rights" -- they exist intact for the people and for the States. 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. Now that’s about as plain as it gets.


I agree with you that the Declaration is not a binding legal standard, but it can certaintly serve as an aspiriational one that people model their laws on (like the 14th amendment).

I am afraid you will never win with the Southern argument, the facts simply are not there. Even if the South had the right to seccesion if did not have the right to attack federal property. The moment South Carolina fired on Ft. Sumter, it was an act of war, and the federal government had the right to reprisal. One assumes that the South Carolina assigned its liability (commiting an Act of War) to the Confederacy, so the other members of the Confederacy could be attacked as well.

So, the taking of a single fort that guarded the only Southern harbor worth a damn justifies a war of aggression? How many died at Sumter? Nothing shows Lincoln’s bad faith more than that. Essentially, Sumter was provocation...we can only conclude that Lincoln desired war.

And I’d like someone to do some historical digging. Who actually built the island Fort Sumter sits on? And can the Federal Government "own" property in a foreign nation without that nation’s leave? We lease Guantanamo, and embassy grounds are U.S. territory only by mutual agreement. So, when S.C. politely requested that Buchanan and then Lincoln withdrawn Federal troops from Charleston’s three forts, by what right did they fail to comply?

And can the Federal Government "own" property in a foreign nation without that nation’s leave? We lease Guantanamo

There may be a lease, but that doesn’t mean it’s a consensual relationship. The lease agreement, after all, was concluded with pre-Castro Cuba. Castro hates that Guantanamo is there, and has refused to cash any of the checks he has received from the U.S. Government. So the answer to your question is, yes, it can.

Also, Fort Sumter was hardly the only incident--the Confederacy seized federal property throughout the South. It was only at Fort Sumter that expropriation involved bloodshed.

There’s no evidence that Lincoln hoped to use Fort Sumter as a pretext for war. At this point he wasn’t sure what to do, and still seems to have been hoping that the South would come to its senses. But the newspapers, the Cabinet, and the U.S. Army (and no doubt Congress as well had it been in session) were all demanding that Fort Sumter not be surrendered. As I’ve said elsewhere, Lincoln would’ve been impeached had he done otherwise.

Don’t have the time right now, John, but I know I’ve read somewhere that Lincoln’s cabinet and Congress were dubious about the resupplying of Ft. Sumter. Might be wrong, but I remember reading it somewhere...I’ll try to dig it up later.

As for "leasing," I’m not sure what international law says about that. I do know that if Cuba were as powerful as the U.S., we’d have been kicked off that island a long time ago. It seems a little crazy to me that a new government should be compelled to remain in relationships established by prior regimes. For instance, how often did the U.S. honor Great Britain’s arrangements with various Indian tribes?

And the casualties at Ft. Sumter were accidental, weren’t they? The direct bombardment didn’t kill anyone as I recall (like...they weren’t trying very hard).

The reason this is important is that, IF secession was legal, it is likely that the initial "aggressor" was the North...they should have abandoned what were, at that point, ex-Federal installations.

Last time I checked the only "bloodshed" at Ft. Sumter was a dead horse.

As for the risk of impeachment, a statesman would play the bluff of the Radicial Republicans on that one. The stakes were just too high. Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas and the border states were still in the Union. Of course, all of the following assumes that Lincoln wanted to avoid war, not make it.

Right--I should have written "violence" rather than "bloodshed." Fort Sumter was unfinished, however, and its magazine lay in an unprotected wooden structure. Any solid hit against it would have destroyed the entire fort and killed the garrison. That this didn’t happen was more a stroke of good fortune than of any intent on the part of the Confederates.

#45: Dain - maybe this will help you find text about suppressing rebellion.

Article 1: The powers of Congress.

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions"

Congress is also given the right to suspend the writ of habeus corpus during rebellions.

In Section IV some obligations to the states are listed. You will notice that the federal government makes the rules about federal and state property. And about a republican form of government.

I grant that Section IV could be stronger but it leaves no doubt in my mind about where power lies.
Your argument that the states had already left the Union and were therefore free to form the CSA is just an example of proving your point by simply assuming you are correct.

Whether the South could leave the Union was the entire question.
Is it your idea belief that it is OK to fire at federal troops when little damage is done? Or perhaps you feel that only the South, not the Union, could decide when that was an act of war.
The problem with the 10th amendment argument for secession is that such a right must exist outside the Constitution. Did it? Opinions certain can vary and I consider this the only plausible legal case for the South.

I also consider it not good enough.


I took a class in international law, and did well in it. I can tell you, with 100% certainty, that a country is bound by ANY contract or treaty it enters to, even after the regime has changed. A country is also obligated by ANY contract, treaty, etc. even if this contract or treaty is illegal or invalid according to its internal constitution.

These principles are why the US was trying to get France, etc. to forgive Iraqi debts that were entered into by Saddam. If your point were correct, there would have been no need for the US to do that since his regime was destroyed and a new one created.

International law is probably the most "unfair" and "undemocratic" law there is, but that is because States need stability so there cannot be cop out excuses like illegality or regime change.

"K" -- that only applies to internal insurrections and invasions...the South did neither of those things. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Congress has the power to take up arms against a sovereign State. Moreover, the notion that the right of secession doesn’t exist "out there" is nonsense. If you buy into the theory of compact at any level, it plainly exists. If it doesn’t, sir, then you have no business supporting the American revolution.

Steve...can you give me a source on that? The international realm is anarchic, and I’m wondering if any of those "laws" even existed in 1860. If they didn’t, then the South couldn’t have violated them. If they did, then the U.S. was also clearly in default at the time of the Civil War. No double-standards, please.

Dain: I don’t consider the Constitution a compact or that any theory of compact applies. And I certainly wouldn’t support the revolution on legal grounds. Independence was gained by force.

The framers understood the english language. If nullification was to trump federal law they could have said so. If they believed the states remained either independent or supreme they could have said that.

The words compact and federation and alliance were available to them. And they didn’t use them.

And no, I don’t think the right of secession existed ’out there’ then or now. I believe the original states ended their independence by ratifying the Constitution. And the newer ones never had independence.

When the South tried nullification the North then nullified the actions of the South.

For those who consider the CSA a nation:

If the CSA was a nation then it had certainly occupied territory within the soverign US. War tends to follow. From that alone the Union actions were justified.

The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris and the Articles of Confederation all represent the states as sovereign. These sovereign states then made the Union. No words of Lincoln can change that fact. And even Publius recognized that "[t]he powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state government are numerous and indefinite."

An essential feature of the Constitution held that new states coming into the Union would have the same rights as the original states. Some new states came in as territories, but others like Texas came in as independent countries.

Under the Constitution the states had no right to nullify a federal law. Jefferson Davis recognized that fact. But since the states made the Constitution, the Constitution served as a compact between those states. As the original parties to that compact the states have the right to leave the Union if and when the Constitution ceases to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...."

Yea,’K’, and if secession had been impossible or disallowed "they would have said that." The Yankees certainly thought secession was possible in 1812, and so did the South in 1860. Even today, people in Vermont (and Texas I guess) have started secession movements. Face it -- secession is as American as apple pie, and that’s because our nation began (essentially) by seceding from England. You’ll not find a single thing in the Constitution that claims the compact is perpetual...and if you think it’s not a product of commpact theory, have some reading to do.

Lincoln did what he had to do--what any rational politician would have done in similar circumstances.

Ok, it’s official - the Ashbrook center has a Lincoln fetish. Maybe it’s a donor thing? What ever the reason, it’s crossed the line. Look at this blogs reasoning. The quote above tries to turn the historic events of the war between the states into a logical tautology!

Of course, one of the main writers of the Constitution would totally disagree with Brutus and dain for that matter.

Moreover the Constitution was written to deter secessionist/revolutionist movements.

And, even if you agree with secession, you can not prove with any degree of honesty that the reasons given by the south deserved such a drastic step ... not one, not even the Fugitive slave reason deserved this.

This was about a group of people who held sway since the beginning of our nation realizing that they were not going to hold the nation hostage anymore because of slavery.

In other words, because of a policy difference, the South left Union.

Compare the reasons given for our Revolution against the reasons given for secession. The reasons for secession just don’t stand up.

This is why we have people such as Jefferson Davis extolling how slavery was a betterment for the slave because you have to downplay that to make the spin work, otherwise the entire argument for south seceeding falls flat, which it does.

Dale, I don’t care what Madison thought...Madison does not the Constitution make. And I don’t see much in the Constitution that is tailor-made to deter secession...I think you are seeing what you want to see.

As for "rising to the level of secession," you are starting to sound like a Clintonista. The truth was, the North and South had distinctive cultures, they were dominated by different ethnic groups, they spoke differently, their economies were different, they had different interests in terms of trade and territorial expansion...should I go on? The fact is, perhaps these two regions would have been better off forming two nation-states. The Scots and English have fought for centuries (and still are on the political battle field), and yet no one thinks that is abnormal. Get a grip, Dale.

Dales says of secession: "This was about a group of people who held sway since the beginning of our nation realizing that they were not going to hold the nation hostage anymore because of slavery."

Who was trying to hold whom hostage? How could the South hold the North hostage by leaving the Union?

Dale says: "Compare the reasons given for our Revolution against the reasons given for secession. The reasons for secession just don’t stand up."

I’ll take a three pence tax on tea to a fifty-percent tariff any day of the week.

Dale says: "the Constitution was written to deter secessionist/revolutionist movements."

I actually agree with Dale here. The framers wanted the states to remain together. But if they had said, or even suggested, that the states could not leave the Union once they signed the Constitution, not one state would have ratified.

There is a reason that the Union never tried the Confederate leaders for treason, and it’s not because they were being nice.

The states in 1777 sure didn’t have a problem signing onto an agreement which twice explicityly stated the Union is perpetual unless acted upon by Congress and the states.

Also, the Articles of Confederation clearly puts the Congress above the states in certain circumstances.

So, we have states who, while being free and sovereign, were also placed into an agreement whereby the union of the members were perpetual.

But, I am suppose to believe that the current Constitution, which clearly puts the states below the federal and binds both governmental entities to each other could be broken because there was no mention forbidding such a thing.

Which brings into question the entire notion of secession in the first place.

Yea, those Articles of Confederacy sure were long did they last? And, funny, that language about "perpetual" didn’t make it in Constitution. I wonder why?

I’ll tell you why. Brutus is absolutely correct...if the Constitution had clearly laid out that secession was impossible, at least half of those States (New York and Virginia particularly) would NEVER have signed it. This is demonstrable, if you insist. What it means is that our Constitutional process was a "bait and switch." Both major regions thought it was a State right...this too is demonstrable. And the notion that the Federal Government was given complete sovereignty over the States is utter rubbish...the Federal Government was given quite limited powers. In short, it was a creature of the States...they and they alone were the building-blocks of the Republic.

I never stated that the federal government has or was given complete sovereignty over the states.

What I have stated, on this thread and many others, is that the federal government is generally above the states in regards to power.

The states have never been completely sovereign, not even with the Articles.

That should be clear even from a cursory scan of both the Articles and the Constitution.

I am not sure exactly where you get this idea that the federal government is a creature of the states.

The Constitution puts limitations on BOTH the states and the federal government.

Statements like this make me wonder because I am not sure the basics are even being understood.

Also, I am rather flummoxed that the one person who is considered the ’Father’ of the Constitution is held in such low regard.

One would think that a "cursory scan" of the Articles of Confederation would take you at least to article two: “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”

Note the word "delegated." That word lets you know that that states had the sovereignty and delegated it to the feds. If the feds misuse it they take it back.

And the idea that Madison is the "Father" of the Constitution is a myth. Forrest McDonald did the math: "Overall, of seventy-one specific proposals that Madison moved, seconded, or spoke unequivocally in regard to, he was on the losing side forty times."

You can worship Hamilton and Madison if you like, but if those guys had gotten what they wanted we would have a president for life and no Bill of Rights, among other problems. I wonder if you would like it that way.

And, yet it also states that the Union is perpetual.

I stated the two clauses clearly, the ideas that is, in my previous replies.

The question is, can or, rather, should a state seceed if there is more or less a policy difference?

There was not much of a constitutional threat against the slave states. The federal government had within its powers, explicity found in the Constitution, to tax imports/exports.

Come on. Not one reason for leaving the Union was justified.

What you both are stating clearly is that the states should be able to leave the Union and do so for any reason they desire.

The former is debatable, while the latter is ridiculous and ... extremely dangerous to stable government.

Even the Hartford Convention rejected secession outright.

South Carolina, with its still stinging behind from being slapped down during the Nullification Crisis, sent the slave states down a fool’s errand and caused the country a great deal of undue harm that, thankfully, was not permament.

The objective, or as close as your going to get to being objective, qualification for secession comes from the Declaration of Independence herself.

"That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; 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 alter 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

Thomas Jefferson clearly believed in the notion that the Constitution could be broken by secession or revolution, but it was qualified. He stated that secession should not be for ’light and transient causes’ and it should only happen when there has been much abuse by the Federal government. So much abuse that it tyrannizes the people.

Then and only is secession or revolution justified.

So, was the South truly justified in leaving the Union?

The answer is clearly no. The southern people were never in ’a design to reduce them under absolute despotism’.

There is good reason he is called the father of the Constitution, even though he himself objected to such a title.

Was the potential ending of slavery despotic?

Was the potential ending of slavery abusive?

Was the potential ending of slavery an usurpation of the state’s powers?

No, no, and no!

The reasons for leaving the Union, as stated by those that left, revolved around slavery and its potential demise.

So, I ask, again, was the South justified in leaving the Union?

Yes Dale, the Articles has the word "perpetual." And Brawndo has electrolytes, we know already.... All that word means is that the Revolutionary generation wanted to posit the Union as something more than a wartime measure. They broke the "pertual" union six years after Maryland finally got around to ratifying it. Get over it.

Lincoln had a design for the South. You can call it a "conspiracy" if you want. He announced it in all of his speeches. It came at the end of a long train of abuses and usurpations, and it would have ended (and nearly did end) in white enslavement to slaves enforced by Yankee bayonets. If, as a Texan, you would put up with that I question your manhood and even your sanity.

What you say again and again is that you do not think the South had a good enough reason to leave. Well I’ve got news for you: you are not the judge of the rights of the states. The way our country is designed no one has that role. Thank God.

If I had lived in South Carolina I would not have voted to secede. But if I had lived in Tennessee I would have agreed completely with what their governor said: "To admit the right or policy of coercion, would be untrue to the example of our fathers and the glorious memories of the past, destructive of those great and fundamental principles of civil liberty, purchased with their blood; destructive of State sovereignty and equality; tending to centralization, and thus subject the rights of the minority to the despotism of an unrestrained majority.”

And the Hartford Covention did not "reject secession outright," at least not in the abstract. They proposed amendments to the Constitution and said that if they did not get those amendments (such as getting rid of the three-fifths compromise) they would meet again "with such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis so momentuous may require." In other words, if they did not get the amendments (which they never were going to get by the way) they would meet again and consider secession.

And South Carolina hardly got "slapped down" during the Nullification crisis. Jackson got the tariff rate lowered which was exactly what South Carolina wanted.

Dale’s run out of steam. All he’s got are references to documents that had no governing power in 1860, to people who may or may not have opposed secession, and to arbitrary standards of "grievance." Oh yes, and the familiar "ends justify the means" arguments about the ending of slavery. Once again, the Lincolnophiles lose in reasoned discourse...and they say that we are the crazies, the irrational ones, the bigots.

Let’s face it...Lincoln did what he did out of expediency, not principle or legality. I do not contest that some of the result was good, nor am I advocating the modern right of secession (I think that 1865 settled that de facto if not de jure). But Lincoln is no hero in my book, and the good he did was overshadowed by the vile precendents he set (e.g., powerful central government).

Lose reasoned discourse?

You have got to be kidding me.

You can’t be serious that the South was about to be under despotic rule.

That is just ridiculous and flies against the facts.

In other words, the potential ending of slavery and the legal taxation of imports is the long train of abuse designed to bring the South under despotic rule.

Please, that is pathetic and truly not a serious arguement.

The massive transfer of wealth from the agricultural South to the industrial North brought about by tariffs that never dropped below 40% until after FDR took over: yeah that’s nothing. Couple it with discriminatory rail fees and Quisling governments propped up by Yankee bayonets and bought ex-slave votes, far far from tyranny. Get real dude: it was worse than the Stamp Act or the Tea Act or the whatever act.

Go read a book about Reconstruction. Try to find one not written by a Marxist.

And are you really a Texan? I haven’t seen this much self-hatred in a southerner in a while. Even the most South-hating Yankees have some sense of remorse about the war: they might not admit it, but at least they know when to shut up. They knew they could not win the case in court so they reached for their guns: what’s to be proud about that?

Reconstruction is a seperate issue.

And, what are you talking about regarding guns? The South not only started this mess by attempting to leave the Union, but they fired the first shot of the entire conflict.

Should the Union have remorse for trying to keep the Union?

A more appropriate question would be should the South have remorse for attempting to tear the Union apart?

Answering questions with questions. Very interesting. Let me guess, you are from Chicago and you hate Texans so you take out your frustrations by claiming, against all evidence, that the Union made the states and the states have no right to leave, ever, unless you personally approve of their reasons.

Brutus, relax. Never to been to Chicago. Only been north of the Mason-Dixon line once and that was to go to upstate New York.

And to think I was pegged as the emotional one ... jeeesh.

Well what is your deal then? The voters of Texas voted three to one in favor of secession. Do you think they were all idiots?

Sam Houston, you know, the guy with the big, tall statute built in his honor near I75 in Texas did not believe in leaving the Union and, while being a slave owner and being opposed to abolition of slavery, he firmly believed that slavery should not be expanded into new territories.

Even with his views regarding slavery, abolition, and secession, he was elected govenor and was forced out of his position because he would not swear allegiance to the Confederacy.

It is simplistic and naive to think that just because you are from the south that you believe in everything the south did was good, just, and rightous.

Regarding South Carolina and the Nullification Crisis. South Carolina did not get all that it demanded. South Carolina did get swatted by the federal government, but not before drawing blood herself. It should be no surprise that, then that South Carolina was the very first to seceed.

Just because Houston opposed seceeding at that particular time does not mean that he saw secession, in the abstract, as illegal. And if he had not been so old, so right on his deathbed, he never ever ever would have stood by while Northerners forced the South into the Union at the point of a gun. You, however, would have no problem making war on your own people.

And last time I checked there was no blood drawn in the Nullification crisis.

Brutus, get real.

Houston was a staunch Unionist, that is no secret.

Lincoln even offered federal troops to help him quell the Texas secessionists, but he declined the help.

Houston prohesized that secession would lead to war and that the Union would win. He was correct.

And guess what...Sam Houston’s opinion had NOTHING to do with the legality of secession. Boys, it’s time to quit...I don’t see any movement at all here.

As the poster says, "Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics...." Just too tacky for me to finish.

Get real about what? Why do you think he declined the help? I think I know what you would do with it.

Well, as a United States Senator from Texas, Houston was consistent on his position that slavery should not be expanded and he voted in that vain. He also opposed any threat of disunity of the Union from the North or the South. He even opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill because, as he viewed it, it helped to threaten the Union due to fostering a seperate America of sorts. During his last year as Senator he proposed a protectorate over Mexico and Central America in order to help foster unity with the United States. He even carried this idea to his governorship. His staunch pro-Union views made him as a possible candidate for the 1860 presdiency by the Nation Union party, but narrowly lost to John Bell.

Now, you could characterize this as being for secession, but that would be lie for he was not for secession at all and the historical record substantiates this fact.

Lastly, the reason he didn’t use federal troops within Texas to stop the secessionists is because he wanted to not have Texas herself become engulfed in violence.

Instead of throwing invectives and assumptions, please do a little legwork. Sam Houston’s life and views are not secret and can easily be found via the internet.

Yeah, and if you check the Pulitzer-prize winning biography of him, _The Raven_ you will see that after the war began he publically hoped that the French would help the South. He also said that the people of Texas would not submit to Lincoln. You can claim he opposed secession, but he fought a war in order to secede from Mexico. And he never ever would have made war on his own people. You would.

And if he did not think slavery should be expanded, why did he support the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850? Why don’t you do some legwork?

Frankly I’m beginning to think Dain might be right. I’m getting tired of giving Dale free lessons in logic and history. I’m done here.

Brutus, Sam Houston died in 1863.

The end of the Civil War was in 1865.

This is from wikipedia, for what it’s worth, ...

Throughout his term in the Senate, Houston spoke out against the growing sectionalism of the country, and blamed the extremists of both the North and South, saying: "Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of [the] Union, — whether originating at the North or the South, — whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval."

Houston supported the Oregon Bill in 1848, which was opposed by many Southerners. In his passionate speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, Houston said "A nation divided against itself cannot stand". Eight years later, Abraham Lincoln would express a similar sentiment.

Houston opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and correctly predicted that it would cause a sectional rift in the country that would eventually lead to war: "…what fields of blood, what scenes of horror, what mighty cities in smoke and ruins — it is brother murdering brother… I see my beloved South go down in the unequal contest, in a sea of blood and smoking ruin."

When he was President of the Texas Republic, he put down a rebellion, which, I am sure, helped cement his views on unity/stability of nation.

Brutus, you are not giving anyone lessons in logic or history, but are demonstrating a lack of both.

Here’s this from the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas Online ...

As senator, Houston emerged as an ardent Unionist, true to his association with Andrew Jackson, a stand that made him an increasingly controversial figure. He stridently opposed the rising sectionalism of the antebellum period and delivered eloquent speeches on the issue. A supporter of the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which banned slaveryqv north of latitude 36°30’, Houston voted in 1848 for the Oregon Bill prohibiting the "peculiar institution" in that territory, a vote proslavery Southerners later held against him. Although he was a slaveowner who defended slavery in the South, Houston again clashed with his old nemesis who led the proslavery forces when he opposed John C. Calhoun’s Southern Address in 1849.

Houston always characterized himself as a Southern man for the Union and opposed any threats of disunity, whether from Northern or Southern agitators. He incurred the permanent wrath of proslavery elements by supporting the Compromise of 1850, a series of measures designed to ensure sectional harmony. In 1854, Houston alienated Democrats in Texas and the South even further by opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Bill because it allowed the status of slavery to be determined by popular sovereignty, a concept he saw as potentially destabilizing to the nation. He likewise embraced the principles of the American (Know-Nothing) partyqv as a response to growing states’-rights sentiment among the Democrats.

So, wikipedia wasn’t wrong after all.

Here is what Sam Houston said regarding taking the oath for allegiance to the Confederate States of America ...

"Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies....I refuse to take this oath."

Here is what Sam Houston thought of secession and the Union (from the Sam Houston Memorial Museum hosted online by Sam Houston State University) ...

"I would lay down my life to defend any one of the States from aggression, which endangered peace or threatened its institutions. I could do more for the union, but I wish to do more; for the destruction of the union would be the destruction of all the States. A stab in the heart is worse then a cut in a limb, for this may be healed."

"This feeling has been impressed my heart by the instruction and example of the great man (Andrew Jackson) whom when I was a boy, I followed as a soldier."

"I beseech those whose piety will permit them reverently to petition, that they will pray for this union, and ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand. I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave, and the graves of my family. I wish no epitaph to be written to tell that I survive the ruin of this glorious Union."

Those are strong words against secession, against breaking up the Union.

This tangent on Sam Houston has taken away my wonderment and replaced it with conviction that the basics are not being understood or even pursued by some here.

By the way, the big statute of Sam Houston is on I45, not 75. Oooops.

The states are not above or on the same level as the federal government. To state that they are means that there is little understanding of the Constitution.

The Constitution itself states that the federal government is clearly superior to the states and then it intertwines the powers of the states and the federal government so as to make secession moot and, I assert, not a right at all, legal or otherwise.

The states, per the Constitution, were never entirely sovereign, which is what dain continually implies and explicitly states.

That is not what the Constitution mandates nor is it in the spirit of the Constitution.

What dain and the proponents of secessionist theory propose is anarchy, not a creation of legitimate government.

The Declaration of Independence is truly talking about revolution, not secession, but even if one wants to make both essentially the same thing, which they are truly not, then the Declaration of Independence puts unambiguous qualificatons on that act and not one of the reasons given by the South pass muster.

But the Declaration of Independence is not a legal binding document so we are left with the Constitition alone, along with the Bill of Rights of course.

If the spirit of the Constitution and the literal text of the Constitution put the states on a lesser plane of power in regards to the federal government, which it does, then it follows that the Constitution, while not explicitly forbiding secession, it implicitly does so by its very construct.

Also, if there is an inherent right to destroy a government, there is naturally an inherent right for that government to keep itself intact.

So, go ahead, champion the Lost Cause, but the fact is the South was on weak legs legally and morally and it shows in its arguments to this very day.

Sam Houston opposed secession...OK, so what? Stop talking to yourself.

OK, Dale. If you want to keep talking about basics we will. Sam Houston supported the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri Compromise brought Missouri in as a slave state and paved the way for Arkansas to come in as a slave state.

Sam Houston led the secession of Texas away from Mexico. He then worked to bring Texas into the Union as a slave state. Thanks to his leadership Texas became the biggest slave state in the country.

Then, as Senator, he voted for the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise of 1850 applied the principle of popular sovereignty to the territories of New Mexico and Utah. That means that those areas would probably have come into the Union as slave states.

Now you come along and say: "Houston was consistent on his position that slavery should not be expanded and he voted in that vain. (sic.)"

Dale says: "if there is an inherent right to destroy a government, there is naturally an inherent right for that government to keep itself intact."

Who said anything about destroying a government? The Union remained perfectly intact. The South was no longer in it, but the federal government could have continued going on just as they always had. If northerners are so dumb they want to keep paying a fifty percent tariff they have every right to stay behind and do so.

Dale says: "The Declaration of Independence is truly talking about revolution, not secession, but even if one wants to make both essentially the same thing, which they are truly not, then the Declaration of Independence puts unambiguous qualificatons on that act and not one of the reasons given by the South pass muster."

So if the government wants to destroy billions of dollars of its citizen’s property the people have no right to create a new government that would protect that property? If half the county sits back and cheers while the other half comes under attack by terrorists (like John Brown and other Yankees who mounted similar attacks in your part of Texas) the attacked half has no right to set up a new government to protect human life? If the federal government makes war on the people of the states the states have no right to put a new government in place that will protect human life?

I don’t expect you to answer any of these questions. You never do. What I expect instead is for you to cut and paste a bunch of stuff you found on Wikipedia. Go right ahead. But don’t give me this crap about my argument having "weak legs."

Your argument, the South’s argument, does have weak legs. That is why you have to resort to leaps of logic, comparisons that don’t fit, and distortions of history.

Ultimately the South left due to policy differences over slavery.

That was a travesty and something that is totally opposite to good, stable government.

Yeah ... I am the emotionally invested one ... whatever.

Brutus, the guy doesn’t listen...his position is rooted in sentiment rather than logic.

And that’s really not true for me. I formed my current opinions quite independently of emotion and after considerable study. You need to study the massive casualties the South suffered, and willingness to continue the war even after terrible attrition and poverty, and how the people really felt about their homeland before you prattle on about "seceding because of policy differences." Pure-D crappola, mister.

A massive tariff (as high as 50% on some items!) that transferred wealth from the North to the South is not a "policy difference."

Terrorist attacks financed by the leading members of northern society are not "policy differences."

Restricting not only slaves but black people in general to the South is not a "policy difference."

Publically announcing the necessity of destroying billions of dollars of southern property is not a "policy difference."

Finally, one does not put 250,000 young southerners in the grave over a "policy difference."

When a government attacks or seems to be bent on attacking the life, liberty, and property of its people those people have the right to alter or abolish that government and put a new one in place that will protect that life, liberty and property. Do you believe in that self-evident truth or not?

As for the question of emotional investment, I really have to wonder about anyone who would cheer on, albeit posthumously, the killing of hundreds of thousands of his own people. That the state of Texas has given this guy a gun and a badge frightens me. I wish he were a little bit more emotionally invested (in the protection of his own).

Officially, the South left the Union for policy differences regarding slavery.

You can not deny this.

Again, your arguments, including Brutus’, are weak and appear to be getting weaker.

Also, it appears you both are content mixing the war and the reasons the war started in the first place as if they are interchangable, which is another example of bad that position truly is.

The South left because they feared what Lincoln would do. Then Lincoln did went right ahead and did it, proving them right.

You are the one with the weak arguments. The only thing your argument has going for it is that it won at the point of a gun. It never would have held up in court.

If you hate our founding principles and your fellow Texans that’s your business. But don’t tell me that 250,000 southerners died fighting over "policy differences." That is an affront.

Ironically, secession was found to be illegal by the United States Supreme Court.

So, what were saying?

If secession, pre 14th Amendment, were illegal, than Jefferson Davis would have been put on trial. He very much wanted this to happen, both in 1861 and again in 1865. That it did not happen is a testament to the weakness of the argument you advance over and over again ad nauseam.

Go and read some of the secession proceedings. Some men opposed secession because they thought the South should wait for Lincoln to do something egregious. But almost no one one opposed secession on the grounds that it was illegal.

You think that you are smarter than 99% of the people in the South at that time. You are not. When I read something like this I know what I am up against: "He even opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill because, as he viewed it, it helped to threaten the Union due to fostering a seperate America of sorts." You don’t even grasp the basics.

Texans voted 3 to 1 in favor of secession. That is a fact. You hate democracy. You hate your ancestors. And I am through debating you, at least for now. This thread is dead and you have been outmatched on almost every assertion you have made.

Brutus, you are the one who is too emotionally invested in this debate ... way too invested.

This is not good for you, mentally, emotionally, or physically.

How could any of my statements on this thread indicate I hate the south, hate the state I live in, hate the people who live in both, hate democracy, hate my ancestors, and, due to those statements, my position as a police officer puts the public in danger?

They don’t. Those assertions by you are very bad attempts at trying to make me mad and, thusly, an attempt at giving you the upper hand. In other words, your assertions about me indicate your very bad debating style.

Just as when Al Gore made a mistake walking up to George Bush during a debate, those ridiculous comments are a mistake and do nothing to further your position. In fact they do more to discredit you than harm me.

Thusly, your assertion that I have been outmatched is ridiculous.

Now if you want to charge that I have been outmatched in exhibiting poor debating tactics, hyperbole, and just down right rudeness, then, yes, I concede, I have lost for you have been a master in all of those.

I have demonstrated that Civil War was started due to slavery. I have demonstrated that the attempts to downplay slavery was to make secession more palatable to the public. Even dain conceded that the Civil War was fought over slavery.

I have countered the secession legality or right arguments, even using those who most ardently voiced the right to break up the Union and shown that there are qualifiers to breaking up the Union. I have shown that the states leaving the Union were not justified in their reasons/grievances.

I have done this and more, but yet I have supposedly been outmatched on this thread, within this debate.

I am not the best debator, but I have not been outmatched on this thread, not by a long shot.

"How could any of my statements on this thread indicate I hate the south, hate the state I live in, hate the people who live in both, hate democracy, hate my ancestors, and, due to those statements, my position as a police officer puts the public in danger?"

I have asked you if you believe in the right of the people to self-preservation. You never answer. I have asked you if you believe in the principles of the founding. You never answer. I have asked you if Virginia had the right to secede in 1776 and if Texas had the right to secede in 1836. You never answer.

I don’t really know what you believe other than this: once a state ratifies the Constitution they have no right to leave. The Southern states left the Union illegally, therefore you, apparently, celebrate the deaths of the 250,000 men and boys who died fighting to maintain that independence. If you celebrate the deaths of 250,000 of your own people than clearly you hate your people. How could I conclude anything else? I don’t see why it is rude to point this fact out to you.

Perhaps I am too emotionally involved in this debate. But that is because I know the stakes. People like you come after Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Then leftists come along and use the exact same arguments against people like Washington and Jefferson. Shouting "slavery" everytime a person brings up wars for independence is a shabby debating technique.

"I have demonstrated that Civil War was started due to slavery. I have demonstrated that the attempts to downplay slavery was to make secession more palatable to the public."

Have you ever considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, slavery is played up to make the coercion of millions of southerners more palatable to the public? People always say that the Civil War was fought over slavery. But Southerners already had slavery. They did not need to fight a war to keep it. Indeed, in his first inaugural Lincoln promised a constitutional amendement to protect slavery for ever. Several northern states eventually ratified that amendment.

The fact is, southerners fought for independence.

All I can say to your last two replies is ... incredible ... just incredible, but not surprising.

I sure an ancient Roman who refused to worship the Caesars would also have been seen as "incredible."

Again you refuse to answer questions plainly put.


Blogging is a guilty pleasure at best, and blogging on a dead thread is even more of a waste of time than normal blogging. And an even bigger waste of time is doing a Google search on your name and trying to figure out what you are really about.

But I found this Dale Michaud quote, which I would link if I knew how: "You can make the case, Contrarian, that our Revolutionaries were terrorists, yet I suspect you don’t subsribe to such a view, even though there is evidence that a lot what started the armed conflict against Britain was somewhat contrived."

Interesting. Less than a year ago you suggested that the reasons for declaring independence from Britain were "somewhat contrived." Perhaps there is a reason that you never answer the questions I ask.

And hey, if you are a law-and-order Tory type of guy that’s fine. Really, I just want to stop checking this old dead thread so if you can just say something sort of nice (or remain silent) let’s call it a day (really it’s been more like a week, but you know what I mean).

Again, just incredible and that is not a compliment.

How is it that I knew you would have to get the last word in, and that that last word would have to be an insult.

Wow, another intelligent response.

What did James Buchanan state about secession?

"In order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it must be on the principle that the Federal Government is a mere voluntary association of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties. If this be so, the Confederacy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and dissolved by the first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the States. In this manner our thirty-three States may resolve themselves into as many petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring from the Union without responsibility whenever any sudden excitement might impel them to such a course. By this process a Union might be entirely broken into fragments in a few weeks which cost our forefathers many years of toil, privation, and blood to establish. Such a principle is wholly inconsistent with the history as well as the character of the Federal Constitution."
- 1860 State of the Union Address, James Buchanan

What else did he have to say on this subject ...

"This Government, therefore, is a great and powerful Government, invested with all the attributes of sovereignty over the special subjects to which its authority extends. Its framers never intended to implant in its bosom the seeds of its own destruction, nor were they at its creation guilty of the absurdity of providing for its own dissolution. It was not intended by its framers to be the baseless fabric of a vision, which at the touch of the enchanter would vanish into thin air, but a substantial and mighty fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time and of defying the storms of ages. Indeed, well may the jealous patriots of that day have indulged fears that a Government of such high powers might violate the reserved rights of the States, and wisely did they adopt the rule of a strict construction of these powers to prevent the danger. But they did not fear, nor had they any reason to imagine, that the Constitution would ever be so interpreted as to enable any State by her own act, and without the consent of her sister States, to discharge her people from all or any of their federal obligations."."
- 1860 State of the Union Address, James Buchanan

It should be noted, though, that in this speach he states that a state can not legally seceed, but the federal government can not force the state to stay.

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