A Constitutional History of Secession
John Remington Graham (2002; rpt. 2005)
Much time must pass in order to gain perspective on great historical events, especially those having political significance. It was over a century before David Hume's History of England was written, giving the British, for the first time, a balanced view of the English Civil War. Only recentlymainly through the work of Francois Furethave French cultural elites dared to question the politically correct version of the French Revolution. But Americans have yet to come to terms with the barbarism of Lincoln's prosecution of the bloodiest war of the nineteenth century merely to preserve a federative union, itself founded on the right of secession. (13)
The central focus of this work will be revolution, not as an armed overthrow of an established government, but as a rational and orderly process, specifically allowed by fundamental law. Far from being an absurdity contradicting itself, peaceable and lawful revolution is an indispensable principle of good government which grew out of hard necessity in human experience. (17)
During this period the King had no money except from revenues already established and what could be raised by dubious or unlawful methods. He was a despot, but lacked resources to become really dangerous. An era of limited, yet sometimes bad government followed, even though the country boomed with commerce and industry. (43)
In 1657 "a group of lawyers and gentry decided to offer Cromwell the Crown. 'The title of Protector,' said one of them, 'is not limited by any rule or law; the title of King is."' Cromwell saw the meaning of the flattery, and declined the honor. (45)
The East India Company had at the time a surplus of tea and a shortage of cash, and so procured in their usual quiet way the Statute of 13 George III, Chapter 64 (1773), known as the Tea Act, which was a scheme to bail out the company at public expense. (76, emph. added)
It so happens that, due to retardation of technical knowledge on how to extract silver from the earth in countries of the Far East, the mint price of pure silver to pure gold in India at the end of the 16th Century was about 9 to 1, making the value of silver much higher in India than in England where, under the sterling standard, the ratio of pure silver to pure gold in circulating coins was about 15.2 to 1. Consequently, if silver could be shipped from England to India and there converted to gold, then shipped back to England, a very handsome profit could be made. (80)
The East India Company made unbelievable profits from importing silver into England and exporting it to India, then bringing back mounds of shining gold from the Far East. Silver greatly diminished as a medium of exchange, and gold became the predominant money in England. (81)
From their illicit monopolies in transoceanic commerce1. their illicit privileges to export gold and silver, their illicit advantages from statutory limits on colonial trade, and their illicit access to the royal mint, the financial interests behind the East India Company acquired virtually exclusive means of expanding and contracting the supply of money to suit their convenience without regard to the public good.
Whenever they wished, the governors of the East India Company could arrange for the free coinage of their gold and silver, and, through lending institutions under their control, they could mount loans of bank notes, on good security, in such parts of the economy as they wished. Nobody dared breathe against their will, because their discretion was virtually the sole factor in determining the extension of credit which to business and trade was then, as it is now, like the smile of sunshine upon flowers of the field.
When the supply of money was expanded, the economy was stimulated, and prices rose. In order to achieve the opposite effect at the right moment, new policies were established, of tightening credit, recalling as many loans as possible, and transforming coin back into bullion for export abroad, whereupon commerce slowed down, prices fell again, foreclosures gobbled up the property mortgaged as collateral, a few merchants and producers were ruined, bankers took their windfall profits, and the whole process could then be started all over again.
Business cycles were carefully planned and executed by private interests which had undermined the public authority of coining money, mainly through the Statutes of 15 and 18 Charles II. Such cycles were not the wonders of nature correcting unwholesome excesses in the free market, but man-made fluctuations.
The British Empire appeared to be governed by the Crown and Parliament, but by the end of the 17th Century the British Empire was run by the East India Company. (82-3; see also)
Thus developed an arrangement whereby the Crown borrowed from financiers by giving paper in exchange for paper. The Bank of England became an enormous parasite, bloated with wealth and power by lending the government its own credit. (85; and again)
The British people groaned under heavy taxes to pay the interest on the national debt without ever touching the principal due. Each war nudged the King and Parliament into an increasingly servile condition, ever more obliged to the huge financial network behind the East India Company and the Bank of England. So it was that these interests were able to demand and obtain the legislation which ignited the American Revolution. (85)
Pennsylvania became an important part of the British Empire. Philadelphia became a great and prosperous city in the English-speaking world, full of culture, learning, trade, and business. The powers of high finance in London moved hard to crush this promising upsurge of development independent of their control.
They engineered the Currency Acts. First came the Statute of 24 George II, Chapter 53 (1751), which prohibited the colonies in New England from reissuing, postponing, or depreciating bills of credit purporting to pass as legal tender for any purpose whatever. Then followed the more drastic Statute of 4 George III, Chapter 34 (1764), which prohibited all bills of credit purporting to be legal tender, even for payment of taxes, in all colonies of England in North America.
These acts, particularly the Statute of 4 George III, destroyed viable domestic currency in the colonies of England of North America. Prosperity was dried up all along the Atlantic coast, even in Pennsylvania.
With this economic injury it was easier for voices of dissent to use the trivia of taxes and tea as inflammatory pretexts to foment public sentiment against the King and Parliament.
These inflammatory protests have since diverted attention from a painful reality: it was the monied interests behind the East India Company and the Bank of England which subverted the fundamental law of England, undermined the utility of the British Empire, weakened the currency of the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, unleashed the injustice of the Intolerable Acts, and created a real and urgent need for these colonies to form an alliance among themselves as new nations, an alliance which they called the United States of America. (89)
And so, from every authentic point of view, the name "United States of America" was understood to designate, not a "new nation conceived in liberty," but thirteen new nations, each free, sovereign, and independent, each under a republican form of government, united in a confederacy. (96-7)
The second article ordained, "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." (97)
Congress had almost no power to enact laws touching upon the people of the United States. In this respect, the Confederation vaguely resembled the Holy Roman Empire, which then languished in a debilitated and ghostlike existence in Europe. It has been said that the Confederation floundered because it was afflicted with the fatal weakness of the Holy Roman Empirei. e., it was a pure league, a mere government for governments.
But the Holy Roman Empire lasted a thousand years. There has hardly ever been in history a more enduring political institution, which, therefore, should be considered a resilient success. A government for governments it was, but it worked very well for centuries in Germany. (98)
Viewing events from a larger perspective, the Holy Roman Empire did not fall from internal weakness. It fell from an obnoxious attempt to consolidate imperial power. So much for the argument that the Confederation had the same flaws of the Holy Roman Empire.
Attempts to exaggerate the flaws in the constitutional structure of the Confederation are answered by the fact that this league of fledgling State in North America did, after all, defeat the overwhelming might of the British Empire. (98)
Answering Judge Edmund Pendleton who had spoken so hopefully and earnestly of the constitutional right of the people of Virginia to withdraw their Commonwealth from the Union in time of great extremity, Patrick Henry said,
"A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny. And how will you punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?" (113)
[Daniel Webster, 1814:] "Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you can take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of the government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty? Who will show me any constitutional injunction which makes it the duty of the American people to surrender everything valuable in life and even life itself, not when the safety to the country and its liberties may demand the sacrifice, but whenever the purposes of an ambitious and mischievous government may require it?" (137-8)
[In 1815,] Delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire met in a deliberative assembly which came to be known as the Hartford Convention, named after the capital of Connecticut where the meeting took place.
Yankee statesmen laid the groundwork for secession of New England from the Union over a war which had been provoked and mismanaged by a faction of politicians from the Southern States. Northern States felt the pressing need to form a new alliance among themselves for their own safety. (138)
The law of feudal tenures is the true basis of our modem law of real estate. (150)
As the Southern abolitionists tried to devise moderate and workable remedies, the Northern abolition movement became radicalized. The likes of James McDowell and Henry Berry knew what they were doing, and they loved the South. Harriet Beecher Stowe, on the other hand, replaced the honest humanitarians of the North, such as Lydia Maria Child. To put it mildly, Mrs. Stowe was a blatant propagandist. If she was sincere, she was misguided. If she was motivated by altruism, she found it lucrative, for she earned fabulous royalties.
Her book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, first published in 1852, was not a work of scholarship, but a novel in which she attempted to portray very rare exceptions of abusing slaves as the normal, approved, and routine practice of the South. She did not live or travel in the South. But she felt an intestinal hatred for the people and culture of the Dixie States. Her thunderstruck readers in the North were effectively told that slavery was a system of whipping, selling out families, cruel murder, heinous brutality, impotent virtue, triumphant evilin short, an unending hell which was suffered by poor blacks at the hands of sadistic whites.
No falsehood can be harmful, unless there is at least a tiny morsel of truth which may be used to win initial credulity, and only then twisted and exaggerated so wildly as to inspire enmity. Mrs. Stowe's merciless and evocative pen told such an exceedingly damaging falsehood. Naturally, her readers in the North were outraged against the South. And naturally, the South was outraged at being unfairly accused. Once the whirlwind of animosity was sown between the North and the South, slavery almost ceased to be an issue. In the dark storm clouds generated by Mrs. Stowe's powerful sensationalism, the contenders all but forgot Uncle Tom.
The unhappy denouement was an unleashing of grave insults between the two civilizations of the United States. The hatred was let loose, and once that happened, questions such as slavery or secession, which were then and are still extremely important in themselves, became mixed up in passions too large, and rational interaction became too difficult. (174-5)
Because the South had been oppressed by Congress so as to benefit the North, nullification as taught by Jefferson and Madison in 1798 and 1799 became attractive to [South Carolina's Senator Robert] Hayne in 1830. Hayne let fly with a brilliant salvo:
"If I could, by a mere act of my will, put at the disposal of the Federal Government any amount of treasure which I might think proper to name, I should limit the amount to the means necessary for the legitimate purposes of the Government. Sir, an immense national treasury would be a fund for corruption. It would enable Congress and the Executive to exercise control over the States, as well as over great interests in the country, nay, even over corporations and individualsutterly destructive of their purity, and fatal to the duration of our institutions. It would be equally fatal to the sovereignty and independence of the States. Sir, I am one of those who believe that the very life of our system is the independence of the States, and that there is no evil more to be deprecated than the consolidation of this Government." (200)
In those days, the Hartford Convention declared a conscription bill unconstitutional, and Congressman Daniel Webster did likewise. It was because of these declarations of fundamental law that Americans at the time of the War of 1812 were spared the despotism of conscripted armies to support an invasion of Canada.
But in the United States Senate on January 26, 1830, Daniel Webster either never knew or conveniently forgot the inestimable heritage of the Hartford Convention.
It so happens that the manufacturers in New England had assumed that the Union must be wonderful, because protective tariffs were making them rich. Naturally, the entrepreneurs of Massachusetts rather expected Webster to speak up for them. Why, therefore, should anyone be astonished to find that, at this time in his career, Daniel Webster was a high priest of national consolidation, as if he had never heard of the Hartford Convention? The Union was not only useful, but holy! (202)
The General Assembly of South Carolina answered on December 20, 1832: "Resolved, That each State of the Union has the right, whenever it may deem such a course necessary for the preservation of its liberties or vital interests, to secede peaceably from the Union, and that there is no constitutional power in the general government, much less
in the executive department of that government, to retain by force such State in the Union ..." (206)
But the real driving power in the North against the South consisted of capitalists, centered mainly in New England, who desired to gain control over the vital organs of the Federal government, and to exploit the situation by high protective tariffs and internal improvements which served their commercial convenience. Their excesses were checked by the South Carolina Convention of 1832 and 1833, but they never ceased in their subsequent efforts.
They were not the only Northern capitalists creating mischief, but they were exceedingly formidable. This class of entrepreneurs wanted to exclude slavery from the Federal territories. Eminently good and moral reasons existed for doing so, but the motive of these commercial interests was to prevent the formation of new States under the control of great planters of the South, for such new States would block their designs of domination. And here, in the competition of economic powers, an increasingly passionate struggle was pitched.
When the contest heated up, these capitalists financed agitation against slaverynot the rational arguments of Lydia Maria Child, but the vulgar appeals of Harriet Beecher Stowe, for they wished to excite the passions of the crowd and carry Federal elections. And they went further to support a new political combination whose avowed purpose was to bar slavery from the Federal territories. There were sincere adherents of this cause, but as many or more were ambitious opportunists, and the pistons of the great machine moved on steam generated mainly by the lucre of industrialists.
And since the instruments they sought to control were lodged in the Union, these entrepreneurs promoted the idea that the Union is altogether sublime and indissoluble. They glorified this perversion, even after Daniel Webster had seen the light, and said in defense of the constitutional rights of the Southern States, "How absurd it is to suppose that, when different parties enter into a compact for certain purposes, either can disregard any one provision, and expect, nevertheless, the other to observe the rest."
In the spring of 1860, Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi lunged at the soft underbelly of the new partisan voice in the North:
"What do you propose, gentlemen of the free soil party? Do you propose to better the condition of the slave? Not at all. What then do you propose? You say you are opposed to the expansion of slavery. Is the slave to be benefited by it? Not at all. What then do you propose? It is not humanity that influences you in the position which you now occupy before the country. It is that you may have an opportunity of cheating us that you want to limit slave territory within circumscribed bounds. It is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures unjustly taken from the South, like the vampire bloated and gorged with the blood which it has secretly sucked from its victim. You desire to weaken the political power of the Southern Statesand why? Because you want, by an unjust system of legislation, to promote the industry of the New England states, at the expense of the people of the South and their industry."
As the 19th Century matured, the States beneath the Mason-Dixon Line and the Ohio River became increasingly vulnerable to unjust regulations of commerce by Congress. Their position within the Union steadily declined, because, over the protest of George Mason in the Philadelphia Convention, proper constitutional protections needed by the South had been conceded in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade until 1808.
As they viewed their weakening position, Southerners dug cautiously like archeologists around the foundations of the Union, and there they rediscovered the amazing root principles underlying nullification and secession. The people of the South became conditioned and habituated to the credo of free, sovereign, and independent States united in a Confederacy. As long as possible, they meant to defend their rights within the Union, but they conscientiously nursed the final option of withdrawing from the United States. (232-3)
There were distinctive traits of the abolitionists in the Dixie States, which contrasted them sharply with their counterparts in the North. They were by 1860 more numerous than abolitionists in the North, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of society. But the abolitionists of the South lived in the real world, not a world of ideological caricature. Because of their characteristic moderation they were often unnoticed by firebrands in the North. Abolitionists in the South grasped the difficulty of the task before them, and they were bewildered by it. A striking example is found in John Randolph of Roanoke. In keeping with the teachings of St. Paul, Randolph tenderly loved his slaves, and they tenderly loved him, but he dared not free them during his life. When he died in 1833, his slaves were emancipated by will under which lands were purchased for them in Ohio. Ironically, the people of Ohio drove these freed blacks from he farms which their Southern champion had procured for them. (250)
There had been a string of events, obviously moved by the same interests and tending in the same direction, starting with the mass marketing of Uncle Tom s Cabin, then the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which was followed by the Kansas Civil War in 1855 and 1856, and then the case of Dred Scott in 1856 and 1857, then Buchanan's recommendation of the Lecompton Constitution in 1858. It is an insult to human intelligence to dismiss insist that these events occurred because of broad forces in history, and were not the planned results of a factious conspiracy. (265)
Nobody knew it at the time, but Douglas had only months to live, for he died on June 3, 1861. Which means that, if he had been elected, Douglas would not have been President very long, and the new President would have been a Southerner. (280)
The election of Abraham Lincoln as President was thereby assured"rigged" would be a more accurate and realistic word. He carried eighteen States in the North, one county in Missouri, and one county in Kentucky, but not a single State in the South. So certain in advance was the outcome that Lincoln could afford the luxury of not giving even one campaign speech. He simply sat at home and waited for his election victory on November 6, 1860. (283)
If the supposed power to use force of arms against secession, He stated to Congress,
"But if we possessed this power, would it be wise to exercise it in existing circumstances? The object would doubtless be to preserve the Union. War would not only present the most effectual means of destroying it, but would vanish all hope of its peaceable reconstruction. Besides, in the fraternal conflict a vast amount of blood and treasure would be expended, rendering future reconciliation between the States impossible. In the meantime, who can foretell what would be the sufferings and privations of the people during its existence?
"The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force."
Buchanan's speech should be carved on the stone of a conspicuous monument for the guidance of every leader who might in the future guide the destiny of a federal Union. Children should be obliged to memorize this speech, not the better known allocution by Buchanan's successor at the dedication of a military cemetery near a little college town in Pennsylvania. (289)
Many have believed that Abraham Lincoln was as close to sainthood as anyone who ever served as President of the United States. To put it mildly, not a few have had their doubts. It is more instructive to remove his halo, and to judge his acts for what they really were. (290)
[Re: Lincoln's first inaugural address:] There are so many things wrong with this dialectic that it is hard to know which point should first be decimated. (291)
In denying the right of the Southern States to exercise this judgment in peace, Lincoln urged on by his partisans denied the most evolved principle of the American Revolution and the Glorious Revolution. The price of this error was catastrophic, and is still being paid. (293)
There was a noteworthy feature of territorial relations in the Southern Confederacy, adopted to cure earlier injustices against Indian tribes then living in the main body of Oklahoma. Each Indian tribe there settled was deemed to be a free, sovereign, and independent Nation allied with the Confederate States. Accordingly, each such tribe sent a territorial delegate to the Congress meeting in Richmond from and after 1862. It was actually contemplated that in due course the Cherokee Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Creek Nation, and the Seminole Nation would eventually associate in terms of equal dignity with the several States of the Southern Confederacy. These aboriginal Nations supplied troops which fought gallantly under military commissions granted by the Confederate States. The last organized Confederate army to surrender in the War for Southern Independence was an Indian division under the command of General Stand Watie in Oklahoma. (295-6)
Evacuation was recommended by Winfield Scott, then general-in-chief of the United States Army. The old soldier had grown exceedingly wise, for age had enhanced his perspective. He knew what war meant. He understood carnage on battlefields. He knew that a military confrontation over the fort would trigger a war. He knew that the cost of a war against the then seven seceded States, if it could be prosecuted with success, would be enormous in blood and treasure. In his professional opinion, not less than three years would be consumed in such an effort. The war would greatly injure civilized values and constitutional government. In his thinking, the price far exceeded he moral and practical value of the union formed in 1789. His recommendation to the new President"Let the wayward sisters depart in peace." Lincoln's responsean order to General Scott "directing him to employ every means to strengthen and hold the forts." Having been fully advised of the consequences, Lincoln deliberately took a course which was certain to erupt in the most terrible war ever fought in North America. (301)
The catastrophe following the bombardment at Fort Sumter is a very different question. The rudimentary cause was a deluded and fatal attachment to a political fiction of "national unity" which has never had any foundation in reality, and was at the time only an effusion of war propaganda. This fixation now serves mainly to sedate and silence the conscience of Americans over the injustice produced by the war against the South. And it has produced imperial power, imperial militarism, imperial conquest, imperial oppression, and imperial ruin. It is hard to understand what necessity there has been for it, or what the compensations might be. (303)
By acts of Congress then on the statute books, Lincoln as President had authority to call forth the militia of the several States to repel any foreign invasion of the United States, or to suppress insurrection against the government of any State upon application of her legislature or governor, or to act as a posse comitatus whenever needed to execute judgments of the courts of the United States enforcing revenue acts or other laws of the Union.
But there was no foreign invasion of the United States, nor was there an insurrection against the government of any State of the Union or of any seceded State, nor was there any application by the legislature or governor of any State, nor was there a judgment of any court entered upon revenue acts or other laws of the Union.
Lincoln did not have power under existing acts of Congress to call forth the militia against the seceded States. But edged on by others, he began a hideous career of executive power-grabbing. On April 15, 1861, Lincoln issued a proclamation calling upon the several States for 75,000 militia over 90 days to subdue and conquer the new Southern Confederacy. Not only was this proclamation contrary to existing acts of Congress, it was a Presidential declaration of war, a truly ominous subversion of constitutional government destined to plague future generations of the United States. (303-4)
The governor of Missouri answered Lincoln's requisition for militia to invade the seven seceded States. "The requisition," he stated, "is illegal, unconstitutional, inhuman, diabolical, and cannot be complied with." (305)
The clause on suspending the writ [of habeas corpus] was understood from the beginning as a limitation on the power of Congressnot the power of the President. So obvious was this reading to the founding fathers of the United States that, on January 22, 1807, President Thomas Jefferson sent a message to Congress, asking for suspension of the writ of habeas corpus for three months with respect to persons charged on oath with treason and certain related crimes, and although there was then a seemingly dangerous rebellion underway, Congress denied the request. (307)
[Chief Justice Roger B. Taney] explained that the clause on suspending the writ of habeas corpus was in the article of the United States Constitution which describes the powers of Congress, leaving the unavoidable inference that the power to suspend the writ belonged to Congress, not the President. His work was perhaps the most artistically perfect opinion ever written in American jurisprudence. From all his tragic errors in the case of Dred Scott, Roger B. Taney redeemed himself forever in the case of John Merryman. (309)
Taney sent his writ, his order for Merryman's release, and his opinion to the President, requesting of him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, but Lincoln placed the papers in his desk, and went on fighting the war against the South, which the power brokers and the financiers backing his party had demanded. The evidence is convincing that Lincoln went a step further, and personally ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice. The arrest was never carried out, because it was deemed politically too risky.
There can be no fair doubt that, by his lawlessness, Lincoln was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for which he could and should have been impeached. In the Case of the Earl of Clarendon, 6 Howell's St. Tr. 318 (H. C. 1667), Edward Hyde, first minister of Charles II, was impeached for infringements upon the privilege of seeking writ of habeas corpus, and these were almost trivial in comparison with the usurpations of Abraham Lincoln. Hyde fled England, and died in exile on the continent of Europe. Lincoln, by contrast, acquired a folkloric image in the vulgar eyes of popular opinion, although he has never been, nor can he ever be redeemed from what he did to Merryman, and attempted against Taney. Bad as it was, the story did not here end, but only grew worse and worse. (309)
Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio introduced resolutions in the United States House of Representatives to condemn Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Not only were his resolutions laid on the table, but he was marked for political retaliation.
In the spring of 1863, in Knox County, Ohio, far from any theatre of war, where civilian courts were open and doing business, Congressman Vallandigham delivered a public speech in which he said, among other things. "The present war is a wicked, cruel, and unnecessary war, one not waged for the preservation of the Union, but for crushing out liberty and erecting despotism." And, "The sooner the people inform the minions of usurped power that they will not to submit to such restrictions on their liberties, the better." (309-10)
Unless compressed entirely into conflict on battlefields in which larger numbers and resources must finally prevail, war is often more a matter of patience and endurance than of tactics and maneuvers, as may be illustrated.
During the American Revolution, the British were capable of winning battles almost whenever engaged. At the time of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, their navy effectively dominated the larger part of the Atlantic coast, and their troops held Savannah, Charleston, and New York. Earlier in the war they had easily taken Boston, Philadelphia, Newport, and Richmond. They enjoyed incomparable advantages in population, resources, materiel, sophistication, and productivity. Americans had suffered defeats as or more severe than the British suffered at Yorktown.
Yet, as Lord Chatham had warned early in the war, the British could not prevail. The morale of the population in rebellion was maintained. The territory of the United States was huge. And usually the Continental army was properly led. The first imperative was to keep formations intact and supply lines open. Soldiers were kept in as good condition as possible. Their commanders knew that retreat in good order from the field or withdrawal from a city in good order was not a serious loss, whatever the score by military convention. Pitched battles were avoided, except where clearly necessary or opportune. Frontal attacks against heavy fire power were hardly ever attempted by American troops. The British gave up, not because they were beaten, but because they were exhausted. (321-3)
[General McClellan] once wrote to President Lincoln,
"This rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it should be regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to a Christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State, in any event. It should not be at all a war upon a population, but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscation of property, political execution of persons, territorial organization of States, nor the forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment."
These exalted sentiments were his downfall, because they were utterly contrary to the views of extremists in the Federal administration, most particularly the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton. The image given by the common lot of civil war historians, preposterous in light of the facts, is that McClellan was ever afraid to fight a battle, and out of excessive caution failed to press his military advantages. For this reason, it is said, Stanton rightly removed him from command to make way for "vigorous" prosecution of the conflict. (324)
The need for a limitation on political folly was an important reason why the framers insisted upon a system of gold and silver coin. (343)
Greenbacks were as flagrantly lawless as Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, his acts of war on executive authority alone, and the conscripting of armies by act of Congress with no regard to the processes for calling forth the militia. The awful truth, which historians must someday accept as a learned consensus, is that all of this lawlessness and folly leading to destruction was the work of men, some of them well-meaning, others exceedingly heartless, who acquired more power than they could wield with moral conscience and beneficial effect. They trudged ahead, and, for the sake of their uncomprehending and simplistic abstractions, hundreds of thousands died and suffered from war or starvation, their loved ones likewise felt unspeakable anguish, fire was visited upon cities and plantations, lovely countryside was laid waste, and civilized institutions fell into ruin, while constitutional government almost ceased to exist as an instrument of order in society. Upon vulgar appeals and corny music a civilian republic was transformed into a military superstate. (344)
Lincoln had created Leviathan to defend his untutored idea of the Union. He had not understood when his predecessor had spoken on the impossibility of saving the Union except by reconciliation, and that an attempt to use force of arms would bring disaster. His life degenerated into a nightmare. He suffered from terrible depressions, and was ever weighed down by sadness. (360)
The indictment [against Jefferson Davis] was quietly dismissed on technical grounds, and thereby Davis was denied an opportunity to argue before a court of the Union that secession is a constitutional right of the several States. It was illusory to hope for a fair hearing on such a momentous question at that time in history. It was a question which would have to wait impartial consideration in a future age. (369)
Alexander Stephens was returning to Congress. And against his massive knowledge and intellect there was nobody who could stand. Stephens had already sketched out speeches he would have made in the Senate. In the entry for June 5, 1865, in the diary he kept while in prison in Boston, Stephens had written these earnest words:
"The people of the South conscientiously believed that the old Union was a compact between sovereign and independent states. Only certain powers named in the Constitution had been delegated by the States separately to the central government. Among these was not ultimate sovereignty, this being retained by the States separately in the reserved powers. Each State had the right to withdraw from the central government the powers delegated by repealing the ordinance that conferred them, and herself resuming their full exercise as a free, independent and sovereign State, such as she was when the compact of the Union under the Constitution was formed. These principles and doctrines the great majority cherished as sacred and as underlying the whole framework of American constitutional liberty. Thousands who disapproved of secession as a measure did not question it as a matter of right. The war waged by the central government against the States, striking at their sovereignty, and causing as it would, if successful, their complete subjugation, these people considered unconstitutional, monstrously aggressive, and utterly destructive of everything dear to them as freemen." (391-2)
Thaddeus Stevens, on the other hand, was fanatical about punishing the South, but he had no stomach for facing the overwhelming sentiment in the North where a morbid and awful Negrophobia prevailed among whites. The very thought of racial integration in public transportation and schools would have made Stevens' blood run cold. He felt dread to his very bones when the famous black abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass paraded arm-in-arm with white newspaper editor Thomas Tilton. (397)
Stephens and Lee went as patriots, wishing that there had been no secessions in Georgia and Virginia, but standing by their fellow citizens. They fought a war of independence, not an insurrection or a rebellion Their land was conquered by those who had usurped a republic, converted it into a dictatorship, threw dissidents in prison, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, conscripted lads to be slaughtered in battles mismanaged by incompetent generals, and mortgaged the country to interests desiring only to exploit. If Stephens and Lee were wrong, then Jefferson and Washington were wrong, and Magna Carta never was. (400)
Excessive concentration of power in the French Empire under Napoleon meant, not glory, but ruinous wars across the face of Europe, the wreckage of France, and the suffering of her people. Excessive concentration of power in the German Empire of the Hohenzollern princes led to the disaster of world war, the fall of the imperial government, and military defeat. Excessive concentration of power in the Soviet state led to seven decades of oppression before it collapsed. Excessive concentration of power in the German state under Hitler produced another world war, hideous despotism, painful destruction, and national humiliation. Excessive concentration of power in the government of the United States, which drew its impetus from the American Civil War, has produced an empire dangerous and unwieldy. (426-7)