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CSA vs. USA Constitution

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by hawglips, Aug 20, 2004.

  1. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    The Constitution of the United States was a document that did more than establish a Union of States, I think all would agree.

    The CSA Constitution was a near mirror image of the USA's with some notable changes.

    Some say the CSA Constitution was an improvement on the USA's.

    Do you agree with that? If so, why? If not, why not?

    Here is a link to the CSA Constitution with all changes conveniently noted. http://www.civilwarhome.com/csconstitution.htm

    Hal
     

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  3. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hal,

    No, I do not consider the CSA Constitution an improvement on the USA's, in an overall sense. But I do approve of it in that it is historical, documented proof of the main reason for the Civil War.

    While I may find the idea of a single, six-year term for the office of President with a line item veto power somewhat tempting, I am certain that the USA's Constitution could be amended to bring about the same idea, if the people so desired and instructed their Senators and Congressmen.

    Where I find the largest problem with the CSA constitution is in its total, sectional bias.

    At least under the USA constitution, slavery was not mentioned, with at least the hope that someday the institution would die out and become extinct. In the CSA constitution, slavery is mentioned boldly without shame or blush, ten times in seven separate clauses. It (slavery) is even touted as 'THE cornerstone' of the new Confederacy by it's new Vice-President.

    But that slavery would not receive a favorable endorsement by the 50 regional, sectional delegates (49 of which were slaveowners) who attended the Permanent Constitution process, is like hoping for a miracle at income tax time.

    Sorry, but a document that forever gives up the hope of eradicating one of the most despicable of institutions, but forever enshrines it as protected, that absolutely prohibited any law "impairing the right of property in negro slaves" immediately renders the quaint and false argument that slavery was somehow on the way out, on the decline or was about to be given up for any reason as total fiction, is no improvement.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue



    (Message edited by Unionblue on August 21, 2004)
     
  4. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    Neal: Sorry, but a document that forever gives up the hope of eradicating one of the most despicable of institutions, but forever enshrines it as protected, that absolutely prohibited any law "impairing the right of property in negro slaves" immediately renders the quaint and false argument that slavery was somehow on the way out, on the decline or was about to be given up for any reason as total fiction, is no improvement.

    Neil, I'm afraid I don't follow.

    It looks like the CSA constitution basically did four things concerning slavery.

    1) prohibitted the importation of slaves into the CSA
    2) prohibitted the CSA gov't from making any laws against the right to own slaves
    3) protected slaveowners rights to carry their slaves with them to other CSA states where slavery might be illegal
    4) slavery was allowed in any CSA new territories

    Other than number 4, these changes were not substantively different from the laws of the USA in 1860. Whether slavery was ever to be eradicated from the CSA or not, that question was left up to the states.

    I count about 35 significant changes in the CSA constitution. In the preamble alone, there are several significant ones:

    "WE, the People of the [United States] Confederated States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a [more perfect Union] permanent Federal government, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity [provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare], and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the [United] Confederate States of America."

    Hal
     
  5. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hal,

    I think you should be able to follow, as it were, the statement that this constitution prohibited ANY law "impairing the right of property in negro slaves" period. As in NO future laws, no past practice, zero, nada, zilch.

    Slavery was fixed as a PERMANENT institution from the moment of the adoption of the CSA constitution until the end of time. Not even a Southern congressman would be able to bring up a bill saying that slavery should be abolished or discontinued or reduced or allowed to die out.

    This is were I point out the idea that the idea slavery was going to die out peacefully in the South as a pipe dream or wistful thinking on those who have advocated this idea. The institution was so vital and so important to the men who helped draft the document, they made sure it could not be touched or threatened in any way, to include future attempts at modification.

    For more comments on how the changes from the US Constitution to the CSA one would be harmful or detrimental to the South, please view the other web site the CSA constitution was found on:

    http://www.civilwarhome.com/csaconstitutionbackground.htm

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  6. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    Neil I concur on two points -- the men who drafted the CSA constitution, as deep South elites, almost invariable owned slaves. I would go so far as to say that had you or I been men of means living anywhere from SC to TX, we too would have owned slaves; and also, no law impairing the rights of anyone to own slaves could have been established by that government, or therefore, even proposed by a congressman.

    However, that did not secure slavery's permanence, as the states could do as they wished regarding slaves, as long as the rights of slave owners traveling through or visiting a state were respected. And as a footnote, in an effort to woo the seceders, in early 1861, a proposed amendment had just passed the US congress, "to the effect that the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service." It appears the US congress was quite willing to make permanent and constitutionalize the right of slave property, if it would have induced the southerners to return to the union's warm embrace. But alas, that didn't work.

    The biggest real change regarding slavery was making it legal in any future new territories. But that was a moot point, since there were none.

    But if one goes through the CSA's document, he will discover that changes concerning slavery were only a small part of the significant changes in it. Do you think that the fact that the southerners had the benefit of 70 years of living with the "American experiment" could have resulted in any improvements?

    What about the omission of "promote the general welfare" from the preamble and elsewhere? This is a very telling "correction" don't you think?

    Hal
     
  7. georgiana

    georgiana Cadet

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    There are aspects of the proposed Confederate Constitution that I like – the balanced budget, the line-item veto, even the toning-down of the commerce clause. I wonder how effective the judicial branch could possibly be, and for all the strengthening of the executive, every attempt Davis made toward the centralization necessary to prosecute the war was met with staunch resistance from individual states. The failure of effective leadership and law to keep states from abandoning one another was the primary motive for abandoning the AoC, and it crippled the Confederacy as well. Extreme circumstances, to be sure, but it certainly wasn’t a very good showing.

    The CSA had to face the slavery issue, in or out of the union. The economy was in desperate need of diversification, but with the planter class now enjoying comfortable majorities in both state and national government, and a Constitution with absolutely no support for national roads, railroads, or any of the improvements necessary to grow and diversify, it seems to me like an exercise in impossibilities.

    When asked to allow the C.S. government to hire slaves for building defenses, etc., the plantation elite force-marched these slaves to Texas by the thousands, causing hundreds to die along the way at an average cost of about $2,000 each. This was the political reality of the environment Davis was operating in. Concepts such as “states rights” and “self-determination” can often amount to little more than euphemisms for self-interest.
     
  8. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    The "promote the general welfare" phrase was one of those that I bet the founders wished they could have taken back. From the early days, it proved to be problematic.

    I think it a nice improvement to have omitted it completely, to prevent it from being used in a manner contradictory to the 10th amendment.

    Hal

    "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions." James Madison, "Letter to Edmund Pendleton,"
    -- James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia,1984).


    "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."
    --Thomas Jefferson


    James Madison in a letter to James Robertson:
    With respect to the two words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. If the words obtained so readily a place in the "Articles of Confederation," and received so little notice in their admission into the present Constitution, and retained for so long a time a silent place in both, the fairest explanation is, that the words, in the alternative of meaning nothing or meaning everything, had the former meaning taken for granted.

    "...if the people of the North have the power by Congress "to promote the general welfare of the United States," by any means they deem expedient..." SC Address to the Southern States


    (Message edited by hawglips on September 02, 2004)
     
  9. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    How about the following changes, improvement or not?

    Article I, Sec. VIII, Paragraph 1:
    "...no bounties shall be granted from the treasury, nor shall any duties, or taxes, or importation from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry;"

    Article I, Sec. VIII, Paragraph 3:
    "...neither this, nor any other clause contained in this Constitution, shall ever be construed to delegate the power to Congress to appropriate money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce..."

    I wonder why they prohibited protectionist tariffs and appropriations for internal improvements?

    Hal
     
  10. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    Georgiana: "...Constitution with absolutely no support for national roads, railroads, or any of the improvements necessary to grow and diversify..."

    I think they attempted to address this issue by allowing inter-state compacts for improving rivers etc. It would be interesting to see how this played out over time, had they been allowed to exist in peace.

    Hal
     
  11. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hal,

    It is my opinion that no matter how good these other sections of the Confederate Constitution seem to be, the documents main purpose is to retain the institution of slavery, thereby voiding any 'supposed' good articles.

    Sort of like working at a new contract at the plant the gives you more lighting, new toilets, better parking, new vending machines, longer hours and less pay. Some good things but just not worth having.

    Unionblue
     
  12. tamaroa

    tamaroa Cadet

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    Hi Neil,

    Just like the U.S. Constitution could be amended to preclude a second term for the presidency and extend it to 6 years so could the C.S. constitution be amended to preclude slavery if they so desired, could, it not?
     
  13. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    The changes to slavery seem to be emphasized and overstated in an effort to discredit the entire constitution and the evil CSA itself.

    There were four changes regarding slavery:

    1) prohibited the importation of slaves into the CSA

    This change is no different than what existed under USA laws.

    2) prohibited the CSA gov't from making any laws against the right to own slaves

    This one left the question of slavery up to the individual States -- exactly the situation in the USA up till Lincoln.

    3) protected slave owners rights to carry their slaves with them to other CSA states where slavery might be illegal.

    This one wasn't really very different, just clearer, than what existed under the USA.

    4) slavery was allowed in any CSA new territories.

    This was the big change.

    But none of these were as big as these two:

    Article I, Sec. VIII, Paragraph 1:
    "...no bounties shall be granted from the treasury, nor shall any duties, or taxes, or importation from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry;"

    Article I, Sec. VIII, Paragraph 3:
    "...neither this, nor any other clause contained in this Constitution, shall ever be construed to delegate the power to Congress to appropriate money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce..."

    Another one of the bigger ones was the total omission of "promote the general welfare." Huge.

    Hal
     
  14. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hal,

    Take a gun, load it with five blanks and one live round. Call the one live round 'slavery,' and the five blanks everything good about your proposed good areas of the Confederate Constitution. Now spin the chamber, put the gun to your head, and tell yourself again just how many things are right with the Confederate Constitution. Then pull the trigger.

    Or would you rather leave out the one live round labeled slavery and repeat the process?

    YMOS,
    Unionblue

    (Message edited by Unionblue on September 27, 2004)
     
  15. hawglips

    hawglips Sergeant

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    Neil, it seems to me that you are not attacking what the CSA did with slavery, but are attacking some mythological creature created by the force-unionist apologists angling for justification.

    Even change #4, which I have perhaps overstated as a "big change" was in reality exactly what the USA's highest court had so recently ruled with the Dred Scott decision. So, actually, it was not a change at all - but a clarification that would remove any chance for future sectional contention on the issue of slavery and common territory.

    The slavery bullet you refer to was already loaded in the USA gun as well. And the USA gun still had other bullets in it that were carefully removed by the CSA government. So, one's chances of survival would be better with the CSA gun, it seems to me.

    I'm with the evil, racist, "Cornerstone" Stephens. The CSA constitution was not perfect by any stretch, and was comparatively deficient in a few respects. But all in all, it was arguably an improvement over the old one.

    It would have been nice to see how it would have played out had they been allowed to exist in peace. I think it may have been difficult for many USA States to remain in the old Union when a better one was operating to their south.

    Hal
     
  16. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hal,

    You are entitled to your opinion of course, the one where it might have been 'nice' to see how it would have played out if they had been allowed to exist in peace.

    I just still wonder how 'nice' it would have been for those 4,000,000 souls who had no representation in it and how their descendants, who would have been forever locked into the institution of slavery, would have liked all those improvements.

    It's just hard for me to let this little thing slip from my mind.

    YMOS,
    Unionblue
     
  17. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Neil, you forget... to the men Hal is defending those 4 million weren't people; they were at best property... therefore their opinions and lives didn't matter. Slavery... those who would defend it by any means... I weep for the species.

    Put simply the CSA Constitution was a copy of the US Constitution w/ changes that profitted the Land Owners and few others... it certainly didn't profit or benefit the men who actually worked for a living.

    "2) prohibited the CSA gov't from making any laws against the right to own slaves

    This one left the question of slavery up to the individual States -- exactly the situation in the USA up till Lincoln."

    I disagree, Lincoln wasn't even in office long enough to change anything before a rebellion tore apart the country. The CSA instituted a draft and forcible conscription, a passport system, suspension of habeus corpus... The immediete and unconditional return to slavery of any black man found in Uniform. Summary execution of any white man found in command of black soldiers, regardless of his status because he would be considered inciting a servile insurection (kind of the pot calling the kettle black). The CSA was indeed a freer more enlightened, more honorable society... really it was. The more I read, the more I realize how few people actually got the Rebellion started rolling... a few thousand slave holders (note how many in CSA politics didn't own slaves) got several hundred thousand men to fight and die for them. Ironic that those that started the war failed to maintain the courage of their convictions. The South was truly a rich mans war paid for by poor mans blood. The individual soldier fighting for the CSA gave herculean service... a pity their leaders failed to do them justice.

    I suppose the CSA would have been a great country; as long as you weren't black, a poor white farmer or laborer etc.

    My eyes are starting to hurt from all of the chaff and the smoke screen.

    Good Christ I'm getting cynical...
     
  18. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Shane,

    Tut tut! Getting cynical is not a healthy thing, especially when in the cause of defending, explaining or researching history. Have heart, old friend and be of good cheer.

    Hal, no, sorry, the other bullets you refer to as being in the US gun are not what I consider fatal. Remember, I referred to them as blanks. Blanks cause a loud noise and might leave a burn, but they won't kill you and there's a good chance of recovery.

    And I must point out that the one bullet, when fired through the brain/soul of the Confederacy is the one that killed it. And I also believe that particular bullet was removed from the US gun.

    YMOS,
    Unionblue
     
  19. aphillbilly

    aphillbilly Guest

    Neil,
    Tell that to Jon-Eric Hexum. Well, you could tell him but I doubt he'd listen.
     
  20. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Tommy,

    Why should he be any different than others espousing the purity of the Southern cause in the face of history? Plus, my blanks are definately non-leathel.

    (Good come-back, by-the-way.)

    See you tomorrow,
    Unionblue

    (Message edited by Unionblue on September 29, 2004)
     
  21. aphillbilly

    aphillbilly Guest

    Neil,
    Well, he'd be different in that he is dead. Killed by playing russian roulette with a blank while filming a movie. Unless it is your contention we are dead too.


    Have a good day,
    YMOS

    tommy
     

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