Skip to comments.They Were Not Traitors
Posted on 10/15/2020 10:58:01 PM PDT by robowombat
They Were Not Traitors
By Philip Leigh on Sep 16, 2020
A typical calumny directed at Confederate soldiers is that they dont merit commemoration because they were traitors. It is a lie for two reasons.
First, the Confederate states had no intent to overthrow the government of the United States. They seceded merely to form a government of their own. The first seven states that seceded during the winter of 1860-61 did not make war on the United States; they accepted it when the Washington government decided to coerce them back into the Union. The four upper-south states that remained Union-loyal until the coercion in the spring of 1861 had previously warned Washington that they regarded the coercion of any state to be unconstitutional and would fight to prevent it. Those four states provided half of the 11-state Confederacys white population, the chief source of her soldiers. In truth, the legal status of secession was unsettled in 1861. The Constitution neither outlawed nor authorized it. It was a remedy that geographically isolated political minorities repeatedly considered from 1789 to 1861.
The Northeastern states threatened secession at least five times during Americas first fifty-six years. The first time was during George Washingtons presidency when Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton warned that the Northeastern states would secede unless the Federal Government agreed to assume an obligation to pay-off their Revolutionary War debts. In 1803 New Englanders threatened to secede over the Louisiana Purchase. They worried that the new territories would become new states thereby reducing New Englands influence.
In 1807 New England again threatened secession after America announced a trade embargo, hoping to avoid the War of 1812 by use of economic sanctions. New Englanders objected because their region was then Americas maritime center. After the embargo failed, Congress declared war on Great Britain during President James Madisons first administration. Yet New Englanders were uncooperative in our nations defense. They traded with the enemy and refused to put their militia into Federal service as ordered by President Madison. When the British finally extended their blockade to New England during the last seven months of the thirty-month war, the region held a convention in Hartford to discuss secession or other steps to protect their interests from Federal powers. In January 1815 the Convention sent emissaries to President Madison to demand five additional constitutional amendments. Upon arriving in Washington, they learned that the war had ended and went home in embarrassment. They did not need the amendments because the Treaty of Ghent ended the war thereby ending the British blockade.
Even as late as 1844 leaders in the Northeastern states warned they would secede over the proposed annexation of Texas. In 1843 twelve congressmen, including former President John Quincy Adams, signed a letter to the people claiming that Texas annexation would not only result in the secession of free states but would fully justify it. A year later former New York Governor and future secretary of state under Presidents Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, William H. Seward, wrote that the free-labor states cannot yield to Texas annexation. They would consider it grounds for secession, nullification and disunion. The Massachusetts legislature underscored the opinion by declaring the 1845 Texas annexation to be unconstitutional.
In sum, secession was a remedy that geographically isolated political minorities repeatedly considered. As a result, it tended to find favor within those regions that were out-of-power in Washington. It was a game of musical chairs. Whenever a regional minority felt that they could never regain the majority they worried that their constitutional rights might be trampled by a tyrannical simple majority in the central government. By 1861 the South was caught without a chair in the game when the music stopped. Under different circumstances it could have been the North. Although they threatened secession often enough, Northerners were never destined to become a permanent minority as were Southerners.
The second reason that Confederate soldiers were not traitors is that their loyalty was first to their state and secondarily to the central government. Prior to the war the average Confederate soldier was a yeoman farmer who rarely travelled outside his state. His taxes were chiefly paid to his state. He only paid federal taxes indirectly when he purchased imported dutiable items that implicitly included a tariff as a component of the purchase price.
Northerners felt much the same way. As Shelby Foote explained, prior to the Civil War the United States was often thought of as a collection of independent states and spoken grammatically as the United States are. After the Civil War it was increasingly spoken of as the United States is, which we commonly say today without even thinking about it. The war made us an is.
Finally, after a couple of decades postbellum Southerners welcomed reconciliation. They eagerly volunteered to fight in the 1898 Spanish-American War. One of them was former Confederate General Joseph Wheeler. President William McKinley appointed the sixty-one year old erstwhile cavalryman as Major General commanding a cavalry division that included Theodore Roosevelts Rough Riders regiment. Despite the censure historians heap upon white Southerners of the 1890s, those volunteers can be credited for fighting under a flag that belonged to their enemy only thirty-odd years earlier. Southerners also readily enlisted in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and later wars. Even today the South accounts for 44% of Americas army volunteers while containing only 36% of her population.
In short, Confederates soldier were not a traitors in the context of the unsettled constitutional principles of their era. They were asked to do what men have done since prehistoric times: defend their homes. They did so as heroically as any army of American soldiers.
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Philip Leigh contributed twenty-four articles to The New York Times Disunion blog, which commemorated the Civil War Sesquicentennial. He is the author of U.S. Grant's Failed Presidency, Southern Reconstruction (2017), Lees Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies (2015), and Trading With the Enemy (2014). Phil has lectured a various Civil War forums, including the 23rd Annual Sarasota Conference of the Civil War Education Association and various Civil War Roundtables. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Phil Leigh (1947 - ) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and has mostly worked as a computer industry stock analyst. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida Institute of Techno
I prefer real historians Larry Schweikart in particular
Very interesting idea that the average Joe was much more attached to his state than the country at the time.
That still goes on today to some extent and we have planes to take us to other states in no time and the internet and cell phones to contact people all over the US very easily.
And news updating us on what’s going on in other states.
And it is true that the south didn’t plan to take over the north. Which kind of kills the traitor part.
Staten Island wanted desperately to secede from the four other boroughs. It wouldn’t come to that because we don’t have the numbers, but i think some would have fought to get away from the other disgusting boroughs (not all parts)
Imagine how willing to fight one must be if their state’s freedom is threatened.
Also, the north should have taken a good long look at how it treated immigrants off the boat.
The Irish ghettos were disgusting and they were treated like garbage.
They weren’t slaves but they lived in terrible squalor.
The north wasn’t Too Upset about that.
And you could buy your way out of the draft for 300 bucks.
So the north didn’t have the high ground.
The south just didn’t have enough men or artillery as industrial production was much more active in the north.
Or the south would have won.
By the way, i LOVE Bette Davis but the movie Jezebel was a leftist, biased “woke” before it’s time, movie.
With Henry Fonda playing the northern hero.
You can be loyal to a state but traitor to your country.
The refusal to accept the authority of the United States is an act of rebellion, but not treason, which is levying war against the US. But it is disingenuous to say that war was forced on the South by the North. Lincoln pursued peaceful reconciliation until the Confederate Army attacked the federal garrison at Fort Sumpter, compelling its surrender, which fits the definition of levying war.
There are some very limited good things to be said about the Confederacy. But the bulk of Confederate apologia is pure crap.
The real world of today is out there and things are happening in it.
Fort Sumpter was on an island in the harbor, not in the middle of the city.
Do you really want me to spend time taking apart the rest of your dissembling, when I could be spending it taking apart Joe Biden?
more than just one reason
first it becomes a foreign nation on your doorstep, closer to your important internal territory
it may become a warring state with great britain behind it or working together to fight you, or blockade or embargo you
loss of important geographical assets in the present and future
you can’t have moral understandings/agreements with people that believe other people are basically “smart cattle” and wont treat them as people with souls and basic human rights
Please list for me all of the military installations located in the north that the South claimed ownership of after they seceded. Their taxes at the time helped pay for them. Name ONE.
People fought for the South much like people fought in Vietnam, as a matter of duty and honor. My father told me about his grandfather coming home from the war where he lost a leg. He spent much of his life sitting on the house porch though on occasion he would don his peg leg to plow a field with his mule. And no, we never owned any slaves. My father was born at the onset of the Great Depression in a house in the mining camp near the company store. They paid the workers in script that could be spent in the company store.
Just advising you that provisional money is scrip, not script.
I am of southern heritage and my people fought for the south. It was a hundred years before I was born. I usually avoid threads with these hateful assholes who get off on spouting hatred for their fellow Americans. Southerners have fought in plenty of wars for the US since the Civil War. These dickheads are on a superiority course just like the liberals.
Ironically, these louts now expect the former confederate states to win their presidential election for them and wouldn’t have a prayer in hell without the southern states.
I have NOTHING against secession in 2020. = The remainder of the USA would be FINE without NY, NJ, New England, CA, OR, WA & HI.
(Should those LEFTIST states decide to leave the Union, I promise to make trips to the two new international borders to wish those FASCIST/SOCIALIST NATIONS farewell & good luck.)
States are sovereign and have the right to unilaterally secede. That is precisely what each of the 13 colonies did just 8 years before the constitution was ratified. Nowhere in the constitution do the states delegate to the federal government the right to prevent secession by any of the sovereign states. Under the 10th amendment, this is a power reserved by the states.
That is how everybody understood the constitution at the time that it was ratified. Just to emphasize the point, three states - including the two biggest ones which were leaders of their respective sections of the country, New York and Virginia - expressly reserved the right to unilateral secession at the time that they ratified the constitution. Quite simply, secession is not treason. Treason is providing aid and comfort to the enemy in time of declared war.
Here we go again. Another 400+ thread with half pro-Confederacy and half anti-Confederacy. Nobodys mind is changed. History is not altered. It happened; move on and make sure it never happens again.
However, I have no faith in human nature that we will avoid a repeat.
Furthermore, in answer to the accusation that Southern soldiers were just dupes and suckers to the tiny minority who owned slaves and that they didn’t really know what they were fighting for, read this:
Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties. Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864
In his book What They Fought For, 1861-1865, historian James McPherson reported on his reading of more than 25,000 letters and more than 100 diaries of soldiers who fought on both sides of the War for Southern Independence and concluded that Confederate soldiers “fought for liberty and independence from what they regarded as a tyrannical government.” The letters and diaries of many Confederate soldiers “bristled with the rhetoric of liberty and self government,” writes McPherson, and spoke of a fear of being “subjugated” and “enslaved” by a tyrannical federal government.
Sound familiar? You could log on to this site any day and read similar sentiments expressed by most here. They knew exactly what they were fighting for, and it wasn’t slavery.
This is what I don’t get coming from some conservatives. Southerners were fighting against everything today’s conservatives hate: centralized power, the Washington swamp and all of its sickening corruption, exploitation by the politically well connected corporate fat cats. They were for the things conservatives support - decentralized power, decisions to be made at a local level whenever possible, keeping the government out of business and keeping subsidies to a minimum, fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, a non interventionist foreign policy, etc.
The South overwhelmingly still believes in those things and is the backbone of the conservative movement. Without the South and their considerable political clout, the gun grabbing, Gaia worshiping, corrupt global socialists would have long since taken over America. All conservatives in America would be living with their boot on your necks.
Yet, despite all of that, they just cannot help themselves whenever they see an opportunity to hurl insults at Southerners.....to call them traitors, to make the ridiculous claim that they were fighting for slavery when less than 6% of Southerners actually owned slaves, and to cast their lot with the exact same Leftists they otherwise despise in attacking the South’s history, culture and people. Its truly amazing. You see it even here all the time.
It’s funny. You sound like a ChiCom.
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