It was June 7, 1776 and Richard Henry Lee had been given instructions by the Virginia Legislature to declare itself in favor of a separation from England. It was on this day that Lee proposed the following, which would forever alter the course of American History, “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Although Virginia had finally sided with those seeking independence there were still those, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York who had still not received word from their State Legislatures which gave them the authority to vote in favor of independence. Even with that obstacle still to be surmounted, a Committee of Five was established to produce a formal declaration of independence, and Thomas Jefferson was chosen to be its primary author.
Before I continue there a crucial point I’d like to address regarding Lee’s Resolution to the Continental Congress. In his declaration Lee states that the Colonies are free and independent States. He began by saying these United Colonies, but ends by saying free and independent States. That is crucial because under English rule they were united under one government, but what he was saying is that this was no longer to be the case, that each Colony was to become an independent nation/state unto itself.
When the Revolution ended and delegates arrived at a treaty of peace between England and the United States, they signed an agreement which states, “His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States; that he treats with them as such…” This is also crucial because the King, although he called them the United States, recognized that each State was a free, sovereign and Independent State.
Prior to the end of the Revolution and the signing of the peace treaty the Colonists had also ratified a document which created a formal system of government to manage the joint affairs of all 13 of the Colonies. This document was called The Articles of Confederation.
Article I of this document declares the name, or style, by which the confederation should be known as: The United States of America. However, it is Article II that I’d like for you to pay close attention to, “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.”
Although they had created a centralized form of government to manage the affairs of all 13 States, that government did not consolidate all 13 States into a single entity known as the United States of America; rather it stated that each State remained sovereign and independent.
Four years later, when the Constitution was written, the framers would write in the preamble to their proposal, “…in Order to form a more perfect Union…” That statement presupposes that a union of some sort already existed, not that they were establishing a new principle that would forever bind the States together as a single entity. All they sought to do was to improve the existing Union, or Confederacy if you will. The style of government they created may have changed from a Confederacy to a Republic, but nothing in the Constitution itself declares that the States had, for a moment, surrendered their sovereignty and independence; aside from the specific powers granted government within the document itself.
As sovereign entities there are two vital facts you need to know about the States. First, if they created government, then they also had the power to abolish it. The second point, and this is even more important, is that if they had entered into a Union by their own consent, then should they revoke that consent the power and authority of any government they had consented to would no longer be binding upon them.
You probably haven’t been taught this, but prior to the Civil War the idea of seceding from the Union was discussed many times; by both Northern and Southern States. For instance, in 1798, after President Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts, John Taylor of the Virginia House of Delegates called for Virginia to secede from the Union.
In 1804, after President Jefferson had made the Louisiana Purchase without the consent of Congress, Timothy Pickering, and a few other Northern Federalists considered secession as an option to oppose the policies of the Jefferson administration.
Just a few years before this, Fischer Ames, a Founding Father, as well as a Northern Federalists, suggested secession and the creation of a Northern Confederation because he disliked the policies of the, soon to be Democratic-Republican party.
Going back even further, in 1794 another prominent Northerner, Oliver Ellsworth, argued in favor of Northern secession when it became clear that the more populated Southern States would control government for the immediate future.
Have you ever taken the time to read any of the declarations by the State Legislatures regarding their decision to ratify the Constitution? Did you know that many of them included in their declaration a statement which reserved to them the right of removing themselves from the federal authority should it ever become oppressive?
For instance, Virginia’s declaration states, “We the Delegates of the People of Virginia duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly and now met in Convention having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us to decide thereon Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression…” New York, a Northern State, had a similar statement, “That the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness…”
Therefore, when South Carolina issued its Declaration of Secession on December 24, 1860, it was only acting on what was universally accepted to be the right of ANY State. However, the federal government which was created by the joint consent of the States, and more specifically, Abraham Lincoln, declared that the States did not have that right, that they were forever bound to the Union, and any attempt to leave it would be met with force.
Although it may have come as a shock to some Northerners that some of the Southern States had actually gone ahead and exercised their right to secede, there was still a great deal of support for the principle that it was within any State’s right to do so.
Horace Greeley was a prominent Northern newspaper editor and a Republican to boot. However, in his paper, The New York Tribune, he wrote, “If the Cotton States decide that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace.” In another edition of the same paper Greeley writes, “The South has as good a right to secede from the Union as the colonies had to secede from Great Britain. I will never stand for coercion for subjugation.”
Days before Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion in the South, Greeley also wrote, “Whenever a considerable section of our Union is resolved to go out of the Union, we shall resist all coercive measures to keep them in. We hope never to live in a Republic when one section is pinned to another by bayonets. Those who would rush on carnage to defeat the separation demanded by the popular vote of the Southern people would clearly place themselves in the wrong.”
Greeley was not alone in his sentiments; even the Brits sided with the South; at least in the press. In an 1861 edition of the London Times the following was written in regards to the burgeoning conflict between the North and South, ” [T]he contest is really for empire on the side of the North, and for independence on that of the South, and in this respect we recognize an exact analogy between the North and the Government of George III, and the South and the Thirteen Revolted Provinces. These opinions…are the general opinions of the English nation.”
Hell, even Abraham Lincoln had argued in favor of secession before he was faced with it as a real scenario as acting President. In his War With Mexico Speech, given in 1848, Lincoln himself stated, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, most sacred right- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to excercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as they inhabit.” (My emphasis)
So why didn’t Lincoln just let the South go in peace; why did he have to raise an army and use it to try and force the South into adhering to the Union? Was it because slavery was such an evil institution and he wanted to wipe it off the face of the Earth? Well, what did Lincoln himself have to say on the issue?
In the 4th paragraph of his Inaugural Address, Lincoln is directly speaking to the South when he says, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
Later in his address Lincoln states, “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution–which amendment, however, I have not seen–has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
This amendment, the Corwin Amendment had already passed both houses of Congress and only needed to be ratified for it to become binding upon both the North and the South. So what exactly did this amendment say? Well, it said, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”
So, not only did Lincoln say he had no intentions of interfering with slavery in the South, he also said he supported a constitutional amendment which would have made slavery a permanent institution in the United States. You have to remember, Lincoln made his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861, and the attack upon Fort Sumter would not occur for another month. If slavery was all that the South was fighting for, why didn’t they just ratify the Corwin Amendment and avoid the horrors of war?
Could it possibly be that your American History textbooks withheld information from you regarding the real reason why the Civil War was fought? Now I’m not saying slavery did not play a role in causing some of the Southern States to secede; but was it the ONLY reason? It would appear that it was NOT the ONLY reason; otherwise they would have accepted the Corwin Amendment and revoked their declarations of secession and rejoined the Union without a drop of blood being shed.
On August 19, 1862 Horace Greeley published an open letter to President Lincoln in his newspaper. In it Greeley states, “I do not intrude to tell you for you must know already that a great proportion of those who triumphed in your election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the rebellion now desolating our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of rebels.”
Lincoln responded to Greeley with the following, “As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
There could possibly be many reasons why Lincoln felt it was his duty to hold the Union together, but I think one played a much larger role in his decision to engage in war than the others; the loss of revenue into the federal treasury by the withdrawal of the Southern States. This is supported by numerous newspaper articles published in the North. For the sake of brevity I will provide only one of them. In March of 1861 the New York Post published the following in one of its editorials, “… either the (federal) revenue from duties (protective tariff) must be collected in the ports of the rebel states or the ports be closed to importations from abroad… If neither of these things be done, our revenue laws are substantially repealed; the sources which supply our treasury will be dried up; we shall have no money to carry on the government; the nation will become bankrupt before the next crop of corn is ripe… Allow railroad iron to be entered at Savannah with the low duty of ten percent, which is all that the Southern Confederacy think of laying on imported goods, and not an ounce more would be imported at New York; the railways would be supplied from the southern ports. What, then is left for our government?”
Had Lincoln allowed the South to leave in peace, he would have been faced with the choice of allowing the federal treasury to run dry, or begin taxing those who supported his election to keep government in operation; neither option could have been very appealing to him. Yet there was another thing which may have been revealed about Lincoln’s decision to engage in war, and it is found in his response to Horace Greeley.
In his letter to Greeley, Lincoln stated, “The sooner the national authority can be restored…” Lincoln could very well have just been mad as hell that anyone would question the authority of the federal government. Maybe Lincoln was just thinking, “How dare they question MY authority? I’ll teach those rebels a lesson they won’t soon forget.” Now there is no proof of this, but knowing the egos of those who seek political office, it would not come as any surprise that Lincoln might have reacted that way when the authority of the federal government was questioned or threatened.
I don’t know how familiar you are with the geography of our nation’s capital, but Washington D.C. was carved out of the States of Virginia and Maryland. Are you aware that Maryland was also a slave holding State, and that there was talk of secession in Maryland? Are you aware that Abraham Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus in Maryland; a clear violation of his constitutional authority. Are you aware that he had 1,000 federal troops seize Federal Hill and train cannons upon downtown Baltimore; threatening its destruction. Are you aware that those same federal forces arrested all State Legislators who leaned towards secession? Are you aware that Lincoln imposed martial law in Maryland, although the State was not in open rebellion against the government?
Are you also aware that at the onset, Virginia, a slave holding State, had chosen to remain in the Union? However, in mid-April of 1861 President Lincoln sent out a call for those States still remaining in the Union to provide troops to form an army of 75,000 to suppress the rebellion in the South. As secession was almost universally accepted to be a State’s right, this call for volunteers to suppress the rebellion did not sit well with some States.
Governor Letcher of Virginia responded to Lincoln’s Secretary of War’s call for volunteers as follows, “In reply to this communication, I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South.” Virginia seceded within days of Lincoln’s call for them to provide volunteers.
Arkansas made the following statement in their declaration of secession, “Whereas, in addition to the well-founded causes of complaint set forth by this convention, in resolutions adopted on the 11th of March, A.D. 1861, against the sectional party now in power in Washington City, headed by Abraham Lincoln, he has, in the face of resolutions passed by this convention pledging the State of Arkansas to resist to the last extremity any attempt on the part of such power to coerce any State that had seceded from the old Union…”
Did you know that Missouri was of divided loyalties throughout the Civil War; sending delegates to both the Congress in Washington D.C. and the Congress in the Confederacy? Those in Missouri who pledged their loyalty to the Confederacy issued their own declaration, stating, “Whereas the Government of the United States, in the possession and under the control of a sectional party, has wantonly violated the compact originally made between said Government and the State of Missouri, by invading with hostile armies the soil of the State, attacking and making prisoners the militia while legally assembled under the State laws, forcibly occupying the State capitol, and attempting through the instrumentality of domestic traitors to usurp the State government, seizing and destroying private property, and murdering with fiendish malignity peaceable citizens, men, women, and children, together with other acts of atrocity, indicating a deep-settled hostility toward the people of Missouri and their institutions; and
Whereas the present Administration of the Government of the United States has utterly ignored the Constitution, subverted the Government as constructed and intended by its makers, and established a despotic and arbitrary power instead thereof…”
So Lincoln’s calling upon the States for volunteers to suppress the Union ended up causing the Confederacy to swell from 7 to 11 States. Can you imagine what would have happened had Maryland chosen to secede; thereby surrounding Washington D.C. with enemy forces? Can you even begin to wonder what would have happened had other States chosen to take offense that a sitting president would call forth an army to violate the sovereignty of another State? What do you think would have happened if, instead of 11 States, the Confederacy had contained 19 or 20 States? What could Lincoln had done had 20 States chosen to leave the Union? Not very damned much, that’s what.
Are you aware that Abraham Lincoln issued an arrest warrant, which he later rescinded, for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because he ruled against Lincoln’s suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus? Are you even aware of what habeas corpus is? Habeas Corpus is a legal principle which gives one the right to face their accusers in court. It is a means to prevent unlawful detention…kind of like we do now to suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
A writ of Habeas Corpus allows a person to let the court decide if their detainment is lawful or not. Without Habeas Corpus the authorities can just pick people off the street for all manner of suspected violations of the law, and hold them indefinitely without ever bringing charges against them; and Lincoln suspended it.
Well, Chief Justice John Taney held that Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus was unconstitutional, that only Congress could do so after debating the issue. Lincoln took offense that a Supreme Court Justice, even the Chief Justice, would rule against him; so he issued an arrest warrant for him. Of course it was never executed because he rescinded it. But it goes to support my belief that Lincoln allowed his emotion to rule his decision making, and which may support the fact that he chose war over peace simply because the South had the audacity to question HIS government’s authority.
After the Civil War the Supreme Court heard the case of Texas v White in which the court basically ruled that secession was both illegal and unconstitutional. If secession was illegal, then what does that say about our Founders who chose to secede from the British Empire? If the court got it wrong, and secession was legal, what does that say about a government that would use force to deny any State its legal right to leave the Union?
The Civil War was not about slavery, it was not about tariffs, it was about whether or not a State must forever be bound to a system of government which violates their rights. By raising an army to invade the seceded Southern States, Abraham Lincoln murdered the principle of consent of the governed. By using military force against the seceded Southern States Lincoln was effectively saying, “We no longer need your consent to govern over you; we have guns, and if you resist our authority we will use them against you.”
Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens said it best when he said, “The talk of restoring the Union like it was, and the Constitution as it is, is one of the absurdities which I have heard repeated until I have become sick of it. There are many things which make such an event impossible. This Union never shall, with my consent, be restored under the constitution as it is … The Union as it was and the Constitution as it is–God forbid it.”
We no longer have a free government founded upon the principle of liberty; we have a government which allows you a certain amount of freedom, and if step too far out of line, or push for all your rights then you are put down like a rabid dog. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has attempted to stand up to federal authority; ask the Branch Davidians, ask the Weaver’s, ask the Bundy’s, ask the family of LaVoy Finicum, ask Edward Snowden.
You think you’re free; you’re not. You are a free range slave who has certain privileges, but who is bound by invisible shackles to serve your government as a producer of revenue to keep itself in business. The first step to achieving true freedom is by recognizing that you are not free. We’re so conditioned for servitude that we now call for the measures that more firmly enslave us to government.
But, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “None are so hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” As long as the people think that freedom means they are not behind bars, that real freedom means having a roof over their head, three square meals a day, a job, and cable TV or wifi access, they will never free themselves from those who hold them in bondage.
And, as for your precious elections, Lysander Spooner once said, “A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” You can either open your eyes and face the truth, or you can keep your head buried in the sand and believe the lies you have been taught about when it all went wrong; The American Civil War. The choice is yours; I’m only a modern day Town Crier who warns you of danger and offers you the truth; it’s up to you to either accept or reject it.