Help support TMP

"If Sumter hadn't been attacked" Topic

68 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the ACW Discussion Message Board

2,010 hits since 21 Jun 2013
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 

Last Hussar21 Jun 2013 1:51 p.m. PST

If the South had played a more peaceful hand- "We believe the forts are ours, but won't attack", merely consolodating on the boundary with no aggression against the north etc – would the North have still gone to war

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 2:31 p.m. PST

That is exactly what they should have done. I think Lincoln would have looked for a another way into maneuvering the South to fire the first shot.

He could have simply sent a force down South to occupy a town or whatever. Basically he just chose to ignore the validity of the Confederate Government as if it didn't exist. Sooner or later something would have started hostilities.

If I was the Confederate Government I would have gone out of my way not to start hostilities. But It is hard to ignore a foreign army that just crossed into your territory. If you don't respond then your government would not look as legitimate in the eyes of the diplomatic world.

The other factor is the psychology of the South which encouraged confrontation. It would be difficult for Southerns (those who could vote) to be passive. The Confederate Congress would eventually begin to clamor for war.

Even though to paraphase J. Davis "we just want to be left alone" Something would happen that would be an insult to Southern honor and then the war would be on.

coryfromMissoula21 Jun 2013 2:32 p.m. PST

Lincoln couldn't politically let the South go, so yes, he would have taken the step to initiate action.

If the forts had not triggered it Lincoln was bright, the Press eager, and the public ripe for outrage. Somewhere Lincoln would have found an event that would solidify the North.

doug redshirt21 Jun 2013 3:23 p.m. PST

The idiots in South Carolina were willing to try this in 1850, but the rest of the South was not willing to back them as they found out at the Nashville conference and then the 1850 Compromises went through.

SC was full of fire brands just looking for an excuse to leave the union, damn the rest of the south. This goes all the way back to Andrew Jackson and the Tariff of 1828 and the Nullification Crisis.

Jackson wrote after the crisis was resolved, " the tariff was only a pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real objective. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery question." How right he was to be. But this time SC was going to bring on the war no matter what. No way that they wouldn't have started the war and forced the rest of the South to follow.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 3:43 p.m. PST

SC 'forced the rest of the South to follow' ?

How so ? SC wasn't in a position to 'force' much of
anything or anyone.

doc mcb21 Jun 2013 3:52 p.m. PST

I agree with all above. Remember too that the upper south including Virginia had not seceded yet. Fort Sumter unified the North. Lincoln's call for 300,000 men unified the South. Not saying Lincoln WANTED war -- he wanted Union -- but he sure saw to it that one came.

McWong7321 Jun 2013 4:04 p.m. PST

It was going to go down no matter what.

Billy Yank Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 4:14 p.m. PST

Of course, by NOT reducing the fort, the Confederate government would have looked weak and impotent in the eyes of both its citizens and the governments of Britain and France. I think they made the right call.

Billy Yank

EJNashIII21 Jun 2013 4:18 p.m. PST

Very interesting question Ed, that I hadn't considered before. What did make South Carolina "special" or insane as old Judge Petigru said? While they could not force physically, they did form the vanguard of the insanity and did lead the others into the fire (where many might not have gone without South Carolina to lead the way). Why not Florida? They had a Federal fort as well. Why not Virginia, they had the highest population concentration and the leadership? Why not Louisiana with the largest city? Why not Texas with a recent history of independence? Any ideas out there?

Mako1121 Jun 2013 4:24 p.m. PST

I agree.

Lincoln would have come up with, or instigated another excuse

45thdiv21 Jun 2013 4:32 p.m. PST

Let's be realistic here.

""If Sumter hadn't been attacked"

I would not be painting ACW figures at the moment. :-)

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 6:12 p.m. PST

Doc here: SC was the extreme weird wacky southern state as RI was (or had been) the northern one. Their planters were wealthier and less paternalistic (often being absentee owners of unhealthy wetlands growing rice and hemp and indigo, etc. They were pretty much bound to be the ones.

You recall that NC is a "valley of depression between two mountains of conceit."

BrianW21 Jun 2013 6:36 p.m. PST

For a glimpse into the mindset, read The Fire Eaters by Eric H. Walther. He examines several of the more radical southern nationalists, and while they weren't all from SC, the loudest and most influential were. Even as far back as 1830, some of them were making it very clear that they planned to destroy the Union or see it destroyed.

Personal logo Panzerfaust Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 6:42 p.m. PST

For Lincoln to have his war he needed public support and the Confederacy handed Lincoln the war he needed by attacking fort Sumter. I agree with many above that the Lincoln administration (read that as Seward acting without consulting him) would have attempted to create an incident. Who knows if this could have worked, I am of the opinion that it wouldn't have. Before Sumter public opinion in the north was not for war but to let the south go and good riddance. No Sumter, no public outrage in the north, no war. And no doubt others will contest this claim, it's just my considered opinion.

A reasoned cautious south would never have seceded at that time so I guess it was inevitable that they would attack somewhere. If not fort Sumter then somewhere else. It's very easy for us in hindsight to see what a monumental blunder it was, but at the time I think Davis and his cabinet thought time was of the essence and a blow had to be struck to show they meant business.

I would like to politely take issue with the idea that southerners were "insane" for leaving the union. Like any revolution there were diverse motives for those pursuing it. For the political class it was a bid to stay in power. The south had dominated US politics from the founding, but this was slipping away. For the planters it was a bid to hold onto their fortunes made with slave labor. For the common man it was white supremacy and patriotism to their state. We may disagree with their motives, but they were not insane.

MahanMan Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 6:53 p.m. PST

At Fort Pickens, the Floridians likely would have given the Lincoln administration exactly what they needed. And before Sumter, to boot!

vtsaogames Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 8:27 p.m. PST

"We may disagree with their motives, but they were not insane."

So true. Things that make sense at the time but fail look insane in hindsight.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 9:39 p.m. PST

Please recall that there had been talk of disunion and states rights and nullification before, some of it in the north. See, e.g., the Hartford Convention 1815 and Personal Liberty Laws and attempts in New England to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act.

Hindsight seems 20/20 but is really quite myopic.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 9:46 p.m. PST

When P.G.T. Beauregard demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter, the commander, Major Robert Anderson returned a negative reply. He also pointed out that the fort had only a few days of food left, and, if not resupplied, he would have to surrender. Beauregard opened fire as scheduled, anyway. Yes, it sounds to me like somebody wanted a war.

Why not Texas? The state authorities had called upon the Federal army commander there to turn over all the US government property, and he had done so. Move along, nothing to fight about here.


SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member21 Jun 2013 10:21 p.m. PST

Why not Texas?

Texas was too far away from the centers of power, for anything happening to really affect the east.

Trajanus22 Jun 2013 3:51 a.m. PST

Basically he just chose to ignore the validity of the Confederate Government as if it didn't exist.

Which of course it didn't. As far as the Lincoln administration was concerned it was and always would be a part of the United States in rebellion.

Although personally I think Lincoln was right to take this stance, to argue against it is to enter in to the unending debate around the legality, or otherwise, of secession at that time. Which could tie up TMP for decades! :o)

However, I do have a niggle point, in that the Administration did try to have things both ways, in terms of their relations with Britain and France.

By arguing that the Blockade, which impacted on legitimate trade, was legal. When in International Maritime law at the time the definition of such required the activity to be between sovereign nations.

So to them the South was both independent and rebellious citizens of the United States all at the same time!


Royal Marine22 Jun 2013 5:44 a.m. PST

… Then we'd all be speaking German.


Oops sorry wrong war, my bad.

Inkpaduta Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 9:55 a.m. PST

I think you have been focusing too much on Lincoln needing to start a war. Many leaders in the early Confederacy were also on Davis to start something. They argued that this would cause the rest of the slave south to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. So, I think that someone in the South could just as easily caused an incident to bring about a war.

donlowry22 Jun 2013 11:12 a.m. PST

SC wasn't in a position to 'force' much of
anything or anyone.

What SC forced was a choice of sides, and 6 other states did decide to go along.

The firing on Ft. Sumter did the same thing. Davis ordered it because the Upper South was hanging back, and he wanted to force those states to commit, since he believed they would ultimately side with the Confederacy if forced to choose. He got about half of what he wanted, but Lincoln managed to hold on to Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. Davis probably failed to adequately consider what it would do for public opinion in the Free States.

Bill N22 Jun 2013 11:39 a.m. PST

If the Confederates had refused to attack Sumter and Pickens, I suspect Lincoln would still have attempted to suppress the Confederacy within a few months. Doing nothing made it more likely that European nations would eventually recognize Confederate independence. Remember with Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky in the U.S. you don't have the slave v. free nation issue. Doing nothing also means U.S. domestic politics would eventually accept the secession. On the other hand there wasn't much domestic support for war in the "free states" pre-Sumter, so he would have lead a very much divided nation into the war.

What Lincoln was looking to do, IMO, and assuming a negotiated peace was not possible, was to lead the united "free states" into war against the seceding states. He was willing to do this even at the risk of additional states seceding. To unite the free states he needed an "American blood shed defending the American flag" event.

Sumter and Pickens gave him these opportunities. Since both could be supplied by sea, both would have required a Confederate assault, either on the installation itself or on a relieving fleet, to evict the U.S. forces. Domestic politics and public sentiment in the Confederacy made it unlikely the Confederates would passively accept continued U.S. presence. Holding Sumter and Pickens made it likely the Confederates would do as Lincoln wanted.

As to what happens if the Confederates don't attack first, things get interesting. The smaller Confederacy would have had fewer resources initially than the larger Confederacy had. OTOH the slave states of the upper south could have created a neutral zone forcing the U.S. to invade the Confederacy by sea rather than by land. Later in the war the U.S. had the resources to move and supply larger armies by sea, but I'm not sure they would have been adequate to do so in 1861, even with the facilities and ships from Norfolk.

If an overland invasion is made, certain forces would have had to be left behind to secure communications through the supposedly loyal slave states, meaning smaller field armies. This wasn't as much of an issue in the historic scenario, but under the alternate history U.S. land forces may have been smaller. A Bull Run defeat early in the war in South Carolina could cost the entire army which would have put more internal pressure on the U.S. government to end the war. Early victories may have united support in the free states and possibly also in the loyal slave states.

ancientsgamer Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 12:43 p.m. PST

Well, it would be even tougher not to call it the War of Northern Aggression, now wouldn't it?

Inkpaduta Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 4:41 p.m. PST

I have never understood how it is the War of Northern Aggression when the South was the one that seceded and then they fired on Fort Sumter which was a federal fort. However, at the time of the firing Lincoln still had a belief that calmer heads would led the seceded states back into the Union. Lincoln was not actively looking for a reason to start a war. But, Lincoln did know for several important reasons that he could not simply let Fort Sumter be turned over to the Confederacy.

Personal logo Panzerfaust Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 5:18 p.m. PST

From the southern point of view they had every right as Americans to leave the union when it displeased them. The first and most fundamental principle of American government is that it be subject to the consent of the governed. They were not rebels and it was not a civil war. They were in no way overthrowing the government. Theirs was a war of independence, just like the revolutionary war. Their state legislatures democratically voted for secession. The Federalists in New England had come close to secession early in the century, ironically because they felt the south was oppressing them, and no one at the time claimed secession was illegal. These Federalists were not fringe figures but leading men during the revolution. The articles of Confederation had overtly forbid secession, but that contract had been discarded in favor of the Constitution which was silent on the issue of secession. They very naturally pointed to the Declaration of Independence as precedent, if not law, for the principle of secession.

In my opinion the southern states fought for a despicable cause, slavery. But I also believe they had every right to leave the contract among states that was the federal government. Lincoln can be perhaps forgiven for not wanting to go down in history as the man who lost half the country, but it did not make his waging of war on the seceding states legal or moral. The thing I find so insufferable about Lincoln is his cynical use of the issue of abolition, something that he is normally lauded for. He wrote to Horace Greeley that he would "save" the union by freeing some, all or none of the slaves, it didn't matter. He also talks about his acknowledgement of the sacred right of southerners to have their cause, while waging a war that cost more than half a million men their lives to crush those rights. He talks about the rebellion destroying the government, balderdash! At the first opportunity he morphs the war into a crusade against slavery, a tactic that modern historians think is brilliant. He sets up bogus pro union legislatures in occupied southern territory that in no way represent the will of the people there. Such twisted logic and weasel language must be expected from a former railroad lawyer.

I do not claim that the world would be a better place if the south had won. However, no matter who started the war, it was the death of the most fundamental principle of American government. No longer was it a government for the people and by the people but a government at bayonet point.

Only Warlock Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 9:33 p.m. PST

Well written Panzerfaust and, of course, spot on.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 6:59 a.m. PST

Agreed. (Doc on David's acct)

Slavery was a great evil. But a war in which 600,000 die is also a very great evil. And the consolidation of power into the hands of a poorly controlled and perhaps ultimately uncontrollable central government is also a great evil, and got a big boost from Lincoln.

Not saying Lincoln was evil -- I admire him greatly -- and I am glad the union held together. Nevertheless, the results of the Northern victory were mixed, and changed the nation in ways some of which have had very deletorious long-term consequences.

(It is likely true that a successful Southern war for independence would have had comparably bad but different consequences, beyond the prolongation of slavery -- which however I am convinced would no longer exist today in any case.)

Inkpaduta Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 7:57 a.m. PST

Perhaps well written but spot on?

Where to start. First, the idea of state rights or secession had been a THEORY for some time. Yes, some Federalists tried this argument during the War of 1812. However, they never acted on it nor, as you wrote, were leaders of the Revolution involved. By 1814 the Founding Fathers were no longer in politics. The theory of state rights/secession was used again in the 1830s during the Nullification Crisis. Once again, it gained little support.

Just because many in the South believed in it does not make it legal. You state the South "had every right" to secede. What right? As you say there was no such right in the Constitution and the theory of secession was open to debate. It fact, Daniel Webster in the Hayne-Webster debates laid down a very effective argument that the right to secede did not exist. By 1860 most of the North, not just Lincoln believed secede had no legal precedent.

Your argument is basically that the South believed they had the right to secede so then Lincoln had to accept that or the war was his fault. (Even thought the Confederacy did start the war.) That argument reminds me of Polk's war message to Congress prior to the Mexican-American War. Polk stated that we offered Mexico $25 USD Million for half of their country and they said no. Thus, the coming war was Mexico's fault. The south said they wanted to secede, Lincoln and the North said that wasn't legal, thus they are at fault for the war? I just don't buy that.
Also, you argue representative government and consent of the governed. You claim that this is the states. Many would argue that it is the Federal Government. That was one thing the Civil war had to decide. Again, the Constitution was not clear but just because the South argued it was the states doesn't mean they were right. Should a state today have the right to do whatever it wants? Not obey any federal law they don't like? Why is that more representative than elections for the Federal government?

Speaking of the will of the people and consent, what about the Unionists in the South that didn't support secession? Weren't they forced out of the Union at a point of a bayonet? Some 400,000 white southerners from slave states fought in the Union army. Further, what about the 4 million black southerners that were given no say? Where is consent of the governed there?

You state, "At the first opportunity he morphs the war into a crusade against Slavery." The Emancipation Proclamation did not emerge until 18 months into the war, hardly the first chance. Further, the EP did not apply to slave states still in the Union, lands occupied by the Union or any seceded state that would return to the Union. Hardly a crusade to end slavery.

Also, yes the rebellion was a grave danger to the government. Are you saying that you would prefer the US to be segmented into various smaller nations today? Not necessarily speak to you here, but I find it interesting of some of the most "I love my Country" folk on TMP will be the ones most strongly supporting the South's right to break up the nation in the 1860s.

Finally, to make it appear that it was Lincoln who wanted war and "Lincoln waged war" is not accurate. War came when the South fired on Fort Sumter. After that the North overall rallied to the defense of the nation. Hundreds of thousands of men volunteered to serve their country and fight to saved the Union. Yes the war was long, yes it grew unpopular, yes Lincoln took some strong measures but when the army had a chance to vote in the 1864 election the soldiers overwhelmingly voted for Lincoln and the Union.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 9:34 a.m. PST

Monroe and Madison and Marshall were FFs and still very much in politics in 1814, and Adams and Jefferson were still very influential in retirement.

The states existed before the United States. Even today (and absent a recent SC decision) the states still determine who votes in all elections. (The Constitutional criteria for voting for US House and for US Senate is that your state allows you to vote in elections for the most numerous house of its legislature.)

How many officials are elected at the national level? Precisely none. Or two if you want to count the president and vp, who are elected by an Electoral College chosen as each state legislature determines, which today is through popular votes but need not be. It's the combined results of 50 state elections plus DC that elects the President. Every other eleted official is chosen at the state or sub-state level.

Yes, usage and interpretation has morphed us a great deal and rendered much of this states-centered system empty of much content -- e.g. the EC. But states rights still mean something, even the SC says so from time to time.

Tell me what the 10th Amendment actually means? Is it a dead letter? SHOULD it be a dead letter? A lot of us say NO! to that last question.

Loving ones country is not the same as loving its government, and sometimes the two are not merely distinct but inconsistent.

As to Lincoln, he is on everyone's list as great president, one of the top two or three. Of course he was supported by many voters; duh, they elected him. In some ways "Lincoln" is shorthand for the Republican party and a political ideology ("free soil, free labor, free men") but single leaders shape and change events, and Lincoln far more than most. He gets the credit and he gets the blame.

And as to nullification, what happens when the US government deliberately and systematically and repeatedly violates the US Constitution? Is there any remedy short of an appeal to the "right of revolution"? Elections? But what if the central government's violations render elections either unfree or untrustworthy or somehow irrelevant? Have state governments no way to protect people from tyranny? It's not so open-and-shut as you suggest, either historically or Constitutionally. Who does the US Constitution say shall interpret the Constitution? Of course it does not say. The SC engages in judicial review, for better and for worse. Does that mean no one else can determine constitutionality? In any imaginable circumstance?

Don't assume that the way things are is either the way things SHOULD be or the way things might develop in future. History includes an understanding of possible choices and alternate courses. Hindsight is not 20/20 if it assumes things HAD to come out as they did. Or that a specific course in future is inevitable.

(Btw, this is still Doc on David's account. We are at his house babysitting this weekend.)

Inkpaduta Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 9:58 a.m. PST

The statement was that Founding Fathers were involved with the Hartford Convention and NE secession ideas. Monroe was not a Founding Father he was too young and Madison was not a Federal and Marshall tried to strengthen the power of the federal government. So I think your point is moot.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 10:06 a.m. PST

The statement was that Founding Fathers were involved with the Hartford Convention and NE secession ideas

Doc's statement was:

Please recall that there had been talk of disunion and states rights and nullification before, some of it in the north. See, e.g., the Hartford Convention 1815 and Personal Liberty Laws and attempts in New England to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act.

If someone said the FF were involved in the Hartford Convention, it wasn't me.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 10:10 a.m. PST

And Monroe WAS a Founding Father:

James Monroe (April 28, 1758 July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (18171825). Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, the third of them to die on Independence Day, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation.[1] He was of French and Scottish descent. Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe was of the planter class and fought in the American Revolutionary War. He was injured in the Battle of Trenton with a musket ball to his shoulder. After studying law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, he served as a delegate in the Continental Congress. As an anti-federalist delegate to the Virginia convention that considered ratification of the United States Constitution, Monroe opposed ratification, claiming it gave too much power to the central government. He took an active part in the new government, and in 1790 he was elected to the Senate of the first United States Congress, where he joined the Jeffersonians. He gained experience as an executive as the Governor of Virginia and rose to national prominence as a diplomat in France, when he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During the War of 1812, Monroe held the critical roles of Secretary of State and the Secretary of War under President James Madison.[2]

Inkpaduta Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 10:19 a.m. PST

To another point. You write "The states exited before the Constitution". Yes, under an old Constitution. The new Constitution stated clearly "We the People" not we the independent states, the supreme states or various people.
One people one nation.

Further, Webster made point that the Constitution existed prior to the states. The Constitutional Convention created the Constitution. States had to then ratify the new Constitution in order to join the Union, ie become a state. Thus Delaware is state number 1 ect.

We can agree to disagree on Monroe. Monroe was not a player in the independence movement, Declaration of Independence or creation of the Constitution which usually defines who we consider to be a Founding Father.

Splintered Light Miniatures Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jun 2013 11:04 a.m. PST

Monroe served in the Continental Congress and at the Virginia ratifying convention as an anti-federalist. It was, of course, the anti-feds who are responsible for the Bill of Rights which the federalists thought unnecessary. He WAS a Founder.

As to the states existing before the US, tell me the status of RI between 1788 and its ratification in 1790? Independent state, presumably. States CHOSE to join and iirc several explicitly noted that they could chose to UNjoin later.

Of course that only applies to the original 13, plus Texas.

You are correct to stress the sovereignty of the People of the US as the source of the US government. But if (by your argument) such a contract is irrevocable, then the pre-existing contract creating the states must be equally irrevocable. They could create a nation, but they had to do so within the existing arrangement of 13 states.

And for every instance in history that you think national authority protected people better against state tyranny, I'll cite you instances when the tyranny originated at the central level and the people were or were not protected by state power. States have been bulwarks against centralized tyranny, though less often than they should have been.

Inkpaduta Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 12:53 p.m. PST


As I said, we will have to agree to disagree. Plus, We are getting away from the original point I was trying to make about this topic and that was too much blame was going towards Lincoln and that secession and the theory of state rights that went with it is just that one theory not absolute fact. The Constitution was left vague and who had ultimate sovereignty the Federal Government or the states, could a state secede and who decides what is Constitutional.
I would say that with the North preserving the Union it pretty much killed the idea that secession was legal and enforced that the Federal Government is supreme to the States (further blows to state rights coming with the Civil Rights decisions) and, today, the Supreme Court decides what is Constitutional. What I do find interesting it lately you have states defying the Federal government over issues like immigration and drug use so does that mean State Rights in returning?

donlowry23 Jun 2013 2:19 p.m. PST

The states existed before the United States.

No. The states did not win their independence severally and then form a Union. The states formed a union and IT won independence!

As for democracy: Lincoln won the 1860 election fair and square, but the Southern states (or the oligarchy that controlled those states) refused to recognize his victory and instead seceded. Hardly an exercise in good sportsmanship ("if I can't be quarterback I'll take the ball and go home!")

Lincoln freely admitted that preserving the Union was his priority, but eventually he decided that some form of abolition (the emancipation proclamation) would aid that cause by increasing his support among the abolitionists and decreasing European support for the Confederacy. Emancipation also helped deprive the Confederacy of manpower (used to grow food etc.) and provided manpower for the Union army.

I think that if secession had succeeded North America would have quickly broken up into several continually arguing/fighting independent countries, because every time some geographical minority felt slighted they'd invoke the right of secession.

Inkpaduta Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 2:31 p.m. PST

I totally agree.

doc mcb23 Jun 2013 5:40 p.m. PST

See Sovereign States in an Age of Uncertainty (Perspectives on the American Revolution) [Hardcover]
Ronald Hoffman (Editor), Peter J. Albert (Editor), University of Virginia Press, 1982. The states understood themselves to be sovereign from 1776 on, and often acted like it. The concept of sovereignty was evolving towards the dual federalism that eventually resulted.

Or simply look at Article I. Section 8 grants specific powers to Congress. Section 10 prohibits specific powers to the states. Is there any other way to read that than this: Congress had NO powers until the Constitution granted them; the states had ALL powers, and continue to have all powers, except for those the Constitution denies them (and they denied themselves by ratifying).

It is of course true that Federal law prevails over state law, but that depends on the Congress having acted Constitutionally.

doc mcb23 Jun 2013 5:43 p.m. PST

I do agree that Confederate independence would have resulted in further fracture, and that would have been unfortunate. As I say, I'm glad the Union stayed together. But the Founders fought against the prospect of an overweening and all-powerful central government, which remains a justifiable fear.

RudyNelson23 Jun 2013 8:14 p.m. PST

As has been indicated by others, there were a number of federal coastal forst that were isolated by local State forces. Any one of these in VA, Fl, ALabama or SC would have been a flashpoint if it had not been Sumpter.

Bill N23 Jun 2013 8:15 p.m. PST

What does the legality of secession have to do with what would have happened in the Confederacy had not attacked Sumter? If the Confederacy had won the war, it would not have mattered whether secession was legal.

Trajanus24 Jun 2013 5:33 a.m. PST

The Governors of both Georgia and Arkansas threatened to pull out of the Confederacy during its existence.

doc mcb24 Jun 2013 7:10 a.m. PST

And I suspect Texas and the trans-Mississippi area would have gone its own way eventually. And there'd have been another war with the USA over New Mexico and southern California. And possibly CSA versus Spain over Cuba.

donlowry24 Jun 2013 9:59 a.m. PST

As for the legality of secession: Lt. Col. R. E. Lee wrote home from Texas (probably to his oldest son, Custis) after the first few states had seceded: "Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for 'perpetual union' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession." When he says "Confederacy" he doesn't mean the new CSA but the old Federal Union.

from "R. E. Lee: A Biography" vol. 1, by Douglas Southall Freeman

doc mcb24 Jun 2013 10:18 a.m. PST

Lee didn't like slavery either. And then he fought for his state, for Virginia.

Now, WHAT did you say the war was about?

"Why are you fighting us?"
"Because you are HERE."

Inkpaduta Inactive Member24 Jun 2013 10:51 a.m. PST

Be careful with the Lee didn't like slavery idea. I know it gets thrown around a lot. But he used terms and language that many slave owners used in the South about the institution while still keeping slaves and the institution going. Lee did have slaves and, sources report, not a very nice owner at that.

Nasty Canasta Inactive Member24 Jun 2013 12:52 p.m. PST

Butler would have surrendered anyway.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2013 2:06 p.m. PST

Lee didn't like slavery either. And then he fought for his state, for Virginia.

Do we really have to discuss that slavery wasn't the cause of the ACW again? What this has to do with the OP is beyond me. But here we go.

Lee profess he did not like slavery but he owned slaves for economic reasons. Thomas Jefferson hated slavery but owned slaves for economic reasons. Now that we have that out of the way.

The only cause of the ACW was slavery. Any other issue could have been resolved within the framework of the constitution and the courts.

But don't take my word for it. Just read the statements made at the various state succession conventions. The new Gettysburg NPS museum does an excellent job of bringing all the quotes together in one exhibit. In their own words Southerners incriminate themselves. Over and over again the reason they gave for succeeding was the right to own slaves.

The slave states feared of losing their base of power in congress if slavery was not extended into the new territories. That was the crux of the issue. Lincoln and many in the North was more than happy to let the current states that allow slavery to keep it as long as it did not expand into the new territories. But the South feared of being a minority in Congress.

On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the CSA, gave his famous Cornerstone Speech in Savannah, Georgia. In it he declared that slavery was the natural condition of blacks and the foundation of the Confederacy. He declared, "Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

Near the end of the war when there was talk of arming the slaves and talk of freeing the slaves to gain British recognition. To paraphrase Stephens, "To arm and free the slaves is to give this government no reason to exist."

Slavery was basically about money. Slavery was the basis of the Souths economy and way of life. Only a war would end that.

Pages: 1 2