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Thread: Robert E.Lee overrated?

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by clackers View Post
    I'm not sure that I have, Shek ... some questions for you, if I may ...

    Doesn't the Tenth Amendment (1791) stress that any power not delegated to the Union or not explicit in the Constitution remains the right of the states?

    Where in the Constitution did the States delegate the right to even suppress a secession?
    The Constitution is explicitly silent on secession. Suppression of insurrections were provide for in the enumerated Congressional powers.

    So the question boils down to whether the Constitution was a mere treaty between states or the creation of a single body of the people, and if you follow this link, you can see what the "father of the Constitution" has to say about secession:

    Madison on Secession. - Article Preview - The New York Times

    This 6 page essay takes a more in-depth look at the issue and will illuminate Madison's comments.

    http://www.geocities.com/sande106/LibertyandUnion2.pdf

    Quote Originally Posted by clackers
    The thirteen colonies surely didn't sign up to an arrangement where they might end up hapless subjects of the Congress equivalent of King George ... were Virginia, New York and Rhode Island so worried about a possible collective tyranny they made a point of ratifying the Constitution only with clauses permitting them to withdraw if the new government ever became oppressive?
    If you look at the language of the conditional ratification, "happiness" is the common word I spot, which echoes directly the Declaration of Independence and thereby invokes the right to revolution, just as the colonists invoked the right to revolution.

    Quote Originally Posted by clackers
    During the war didn't the Federal Government accept the western counties of Virginia seceding to the Union, and in fact give them statehood as a reward?
    Indeed, and the constitutionality of this is dubious, and Lincoln himself acknowledges this move as being realpolitik in nature:

    Lincoln and West Virginia Statehood

    The division of a State is dreaded as a precedent. But a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace. It is said that the admission of West-Virginia, is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the constitution, and secession in favor of the constitution.

    I believe the admission of West-Virginia into the Union is expedient.
    Quote Originally Posted by clackers
    And after the war, didn't the Union accept Texas seceding from Mexico, and give them statehood too?
    I'm not aware that Texas invoked secession against Mexico. Rather, because their declaration of independence, I am led to believe that they invoked the right to revolution just as the US Declaration of Independence did.

    Quote Originally Posted by clackers
    Thanks for the info so far, Shek ...!
    No problem. The question of secession obviously wasn't a settled issue prior to the Civil War since the South did invoke the right to secede through their secession documents. I think that the language of the Constitution, and especially the Federalist papers and the "father of the Constitution" himself, makes it clear that the Consitution was no mere treaty between states to be discarded when desired by a state, but instead a binding vote by the people that could be ended through revolution.

    Here are two other threads on the board that I think you'd enjoy to wander through when you get a chance:

    http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/pol...slavery-6.html
    http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/pol...ise-again.html
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    The North and the South were voting against one another, and since the North had a lot more voters, it was winning... and beginning to override the checks that were built into the system against the federal government. Now what could the South do about that? Working within the system wasn't effective because they were outnumbered substantially and with the way immigration patterns were working it was becoming even more imbalanced over time. The judiciary is either voted for locally, or appointed over the long term, so that worked against them too. The only remaining check in their arsenal was states rights (something that as contemporary Americans we don't even seriously consider because they were done away with two lifetimes ago), and those were being eroded as the federal government gathered more power to itself
    While I agree that the momentum of preventing the spread of slavery into new territories would have eroded the power of a Southern "caucus" over time, the "tyranny of the majority" would have taken several decades due to the structure of the Senate and the filibuster. Furthermore, as of 1860, the South couldn't cry about the tyranny of the majority given their ability as a bloc to defeat certain bills that they saw as counter to their interest (e.g., the National Bank Bill of 1860 was defeated, the 1857 tariffs were substantially reduced due to the Southern bloc, and the Homestead Act of 1860 was vetoed by a Southern president - of interest here is that dozens of Southern Congressmen had voted for a similar bill just 8 years prior). Furthermore, I don't think that I would claim that the Taney Court was harmful to Southern interests.

    The bottomline is at the time of the Civil War, the Southern states had the ability to protect their interest within the system of checks and balances provided for by the Constitution. To reduce the politics of the time to simply South vs. North is a tad simplistic, as there were Eastern and Western interests, and others as well. I suspect K Street wasn't as infested then as it is today, but special interests of all flavors I'm sure existed then as well.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluesman View Post
    Well, when secession became a FACT through the legally elected representatives of the individual states, is Lee in any position to say that he was now duty-bound to fight against his 'country' (as it was understood by anybody you could've asked back then) of Virginia?

    What we're talking about here is the difference in perspective from Lee as opposed to what the legislators believed they were entitled to do. And I'm not at all convinced that, before the question was settled for all time by force of arms in 1865, that in 1860, it wasn't legal. I mean, if what we're talking about is a free association of represented states and not an empire (the definition of which is a diverse set of peoples, held together by force), then I'd say that the South or any other piece of the Union DOES have a right to secede, implied in the very act of creation of same Union in the first dam' place.

    So, LEE had very little choice from his point-of-view but to do his duty to the group he felt he owed his allegiance to - Virginia. (Remember - the Union had, in actual fact, been dissolved by the act of multiple states seceding, so when the United States Army, which he HAD been a member of, was ordered to attack Virginia, it was now a foreign army, sent to subdue a free people exercising their rights, as they saw them, right or wrong.)

    I have no doubt he would've taken Lincoln's offer of command of Federal forces, had Virginia NOT seceded, and that seems to me to settle the question right there as to whether Lee was a traitor. He wasn't. And neither was his ancestor, George Washington, who did something very similar.
    I think that whether Lee should or shouldn't be considered a traitor is irrelevant to the question as to whether he was a great commander or not.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    I guess we can agree to disagree.

    I don;t think we can know what the Founders were thinking. And whiel judges are not perfect they certainly have a deeper understanding of the law than I do (of course, since my brother is a judge, maybe I have the wrong view!)
    Which founding father? I am under the strong impression that Franklin, Hamilton and Jeferson have had very serious disagreements about what constituted a just government.
    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
    -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple C View Post
    Which founding father? I am under the strong impression that Franklin, Hamilton and Jeferson have had very serious disagreements about what constituted a just government.
    There were many disagreements over the scope of federal power, and hence, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. The Constitution passed because the Bill of Rights was added to comfort the anti-Federalists that were concerned about too powerful of a central government.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    I think that whether Lee should or shouldn't be considered a traitor is irrelevant to the question as to whether he was a great commander or not.
    I would have to agree determining the ability of a military commander has nothing to do with that person being considered a traitor. Lee accomplished a lot with limited resources. I feel that puts him well on the road.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    While I agree that the momentum of preventing the spread of slavery into new territories would have eroded the power of a Southern "caucus" over time, the "tyranny of the majority" would have taken several decades due to the structure of the Senate and the filibuster. Furthermore, as of 1860, the South couldn't cry about the tyranny of the majority given their ability as a bloc to defeat certain bills that they saw as counter to their interest (e.g., the National Bank Bill of 1860 was defeated, the 1857 tariffs were substantially reduced due to the Southern bloc, and the Homestead Act of 1860 was vetoed by a Southern president - of interest here is that dozens of Southern Congressmen had voted for a similar bill just 8 years prior). Furthermore, I don't think that I would claim that the Taney Court was harmful to Southern interests.


    The bottomline is at the time of the Civil War, the Southern states had the ability to protect their interest within the system of checks and balances provided for by the Constitution. To reduce the politics of the time to simply South vs. North is a tad simplistic, as there were Eastern and Western interests, and others as well. I suspect K Street wasn't as infested then as it is today, but special interests of all flavors I'm sure existed then as well.
    I agree that at the time of secession things were only somewhat unbalanced and that the South still had the ability to resist things it felt were against their interest, however within the federal system things were clearly beginning to go against them. The North was becoming increasingly powerful within the democracy and was growing more so. With the rise of the Republican Party on the ashes of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, could you really blame Southerners at the time for thinking the federal government was turning against them?

    I also agree that the tyranny of the majority was not a completely established fact in 1860... however it was very clearly going to become that way by 1880 or 1890 at the latest, and the lines had already been drawn. Besides, 1860 was the last time the South really had a chance for even a political victory (a military victory in war was beyond them at that point... that time had passed around 1850). By 1880 they would be so heavily outweighed that they would have had no chance in a protracted war without European support.

    As for the Eastern and Western interests, while I agree that they existed, there really weren't enough people in the West (nor enough states) to make them a major issue, and the North-South dynamic largely superseded them as the dominant political issue until at least the post Civil War migration west.

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    RE Lee

    My point about Lee had nothing to do with whether or not he was good commander. My point was that he, along with every other Confederate officer who had previously sworn an oath of allegience to the US, violated said oath and went to war against the Federal government,which was a traitorous offence. That the Federal government did not choose to try them for treason was a very good move...as was the decision of the Confederate field commanders to not follow Davis' wish for guerilla warfare.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    My point about Lee had nothing to do with whether or not he was good commander. My point was that he, along with every other Confederate officer who had previously sworn an oath of allegience to the US, violated said oath and went to war against the Federal government,which was a traitorous offence. That the Federal government did not choose to try them for treason was a very good move...as was the decision of the Confederate field commanders to not follow Davis' wish for guerilla warfare.
    Those are very good points. The Federal Government not prosecuting made healing the wounds easier and if guerilla warfare had been advocated who knows how long it would have taken for re-unification.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    My point about Lee had nothing to do with whether or not he was good commander. My point was that he, along with every other Confederate officer who had previously sworn an oath of allegience to the US, violated said oath and went to war against the Federal government,which was a traitorous offence. That the Federal government did not choose to try them for treason was a very good move...as was the decision of the Confederate field commanders to not follow Davis' wish for guerilla warfare.
    Alright, I'll give you that, however the point I was trying to make was that it wasn't necessarily as clear cut a case of violating their oath as you made out. According to the interpretation of the constitution that most southerners had (and the way the constitution and federal government was viewed at the time), the federal government was beginning to violate the checks built into it and there wasn't anything the southern states could do about it in the long run... so it wasn't so much a decision to violate their oath as it was following their states (the constitution already being violated in the minds of many southerners as the federal government accumulated more power at the expense of the states).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    I'm not aware that Texas invoked secession against Mexico. Rather, because their declaration of independence, I am led to believe that they invoked the right to revolution just as the US Declaration of Independence did.
    I guess I'm calling "revolution" an overthrow of the existing government (eg the Russian revolution or the English Civil War), and a breaking away (but leaving the existing government intact) a "secession" (eg the American War of Independence or Croatia splitting from Yugoslavia in 1991).

    But this is just semantics ... many thanks for your thoughtful responses, Shek, and the links to the two other threads, which were entertaining as well as informative!

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    Quote Originally Posted by clackers View Post
    I guess I'm calling "revolution" an overthrow of the existing government (eg the Russian revolution or the English Civil War), and a breaking away (but leaving the existing government intact) a "secession" (eg the American War of Independence or Croatia splitting from Yugoslavia in 1991).
    Another case of two countries separated by a common language.

    We call the American War of Independence the Revolutionary War. As far as secession goes, its context implies a legal split from the parent country. It does describe a de facto split that isn't legal as well, but it would make conversations more cumbersome to have to define secession as being either de facto, de jure, or both, and so that's where the use of revolution can help delineate things in my mind a little bit more cleanly.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger View Post
    According to the interpretation of the constitution that most southerners had (and the way the constitution and federal government was viewed at the time), the federal government was beginning to violate the checks built into it and there wasn't anything the southern states could do about it in the long run... so it wasn't so much a decision to violate their oath as it was following their states (the constitution already being violated in the minds of many southerners as the federal government accumulated more power at the expense of the states).
    I still think that you are overstating the case. Here's an excerpt of Southern Democrat Andrew Jackson's proclamation following the South Carolina attempt at nullifcation.

    The Avalon Project : President Jackson's Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832

    The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league, and whether it be formed by compact between the States, or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a government in which ale the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States; they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right, is confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent upon a failure.
    Additionally, you had several Southern states censure South Carolina for attempting to claim the right of nullification, just as most Southern states had censured Kentucky and Virginia for suggesting nullifcation of the Alien and Sedition Acts. So, the "states rights" position proclaimed by Southern politicians at the time of the Civil War find their roots more in the convenience of the argument as a justification than in any deeply rooted tradition of Southern political philosophy.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    So, the "states rights" position proclaimed by Southern politicians at the time of the Civil War find their roots more in the convenience of the argument as a justification than in any deeply rooted tradition of Southern political philosophy.
    A quick read of the actual documents of secession support the convenience of argument justification. States which seceded did so to preserve their rights to keep slaves. Anyone who then chose to join their state and ignore their oath to the Constitution chose to do so to support slavery. States' rights really means "States' rights to keep slaves."

    Texas:
    We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

    That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.
    Mississippi:
    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
    Source: The Avalon Project : Confederate States of America

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Additionally, you had several Southern states censure South Carolina for attempting to claim the right of nullification, just as most Southern states had censured Kentucky and Virginia for suggesting nullifcation of the Alien and Sedition Acts. So, the "states rights" position proclaimed by Southern politicians at the time of the Civil War find their roots more in the convenience of the argument as a justification than in any deeply rooted tradition of Southern political philosophy.
    Well sir, have political groups within the United States ever been completely cohesive?

    I could make the exact same argument in the exact same way against the American Revolution... however that doesn't mean that it wasn't justified and a long time in coming (nor does it mean that there weren't significant political divisions within the colonies over revolution).

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