Did Lee violate his oath?

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
A territory or colony opting to voluntarily join the Union is little different than an individual signing up for a "Book of the Month Club".

You opt to join and sign up for that subscription, but when it no longer suits your needs and you try and quit, then and only then, do you discover the "predatory practices" of the "big business".

I am absolutely certain that every territory or colony that joined the Union did so with the understanding that they could quit and leave it, if later they so desired.

Lee did not violate his oath. He sequentially resigned his commission, and then joined the righteous cause of his home state of Virginia months later.
Well you would be wrong there. During the New York constitutional ratification convention Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to James Madison questioning what he should do in response to some New York constitutional representatives proposing a conditional adoption of the constitution with a provision that if certain amendments weren't adopted within a certain time limit that they would leave the government formed by the constitution. Here is James Madison's letter in response;

My dear Sir,

Yours of yesterday is this instant come to hand & I have but a few minutes to answer it. I am sorry that your situation obliges you to listen to propositions of the nature you describe. My opinion is that a reservation of a right to withdraw if amendments be not decided on under the form of the Constitution within a certain time, is a conditional ratification, that it does not make N. York a member of the New Union, and consequently that3 she could not be received on that plan. Compacts must be reciprocal, this principle would not in such a case be preserved. The Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever. It has been so adopted by the other States. An adoption for a limited time would be as defective as an adoption of some of the articles only. In short any condition whatever must viciate the ratification. What the new Congress by virtue of the power to admit new States, may be able & disposed to do in such a case, I do not enquire as I suppose that is not the material point at present. I have not a moment to add more. Know my fervent wishes for your success & happiness.

James Madison

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-05-02-0012-0086

Alexander Hamilton read this letter to the New York ratification convention.


On November 10, 1860 the New York times published an article in response to the news that South Carolina was contemplating seceding from the Union. They published both letters in this article and stating this;

"New-York finally abandoned her claim, and "adopted the Constitution in toto, and FOREVER." And so did all the other States. No one of them has any right to secede, -- or to withdraw from the obligations and responsibilities of the Union. In the language of Judge SPENCER ROANE, President of the Electoral College of Virginia, in 1808, "it is treason to secede."
https://www.nytimes.com/1860/11/10/archives/the-right-of-secession.html
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Here are some of the oaths. Evidently, only after August, 1861 did West Point cadets subscribe to an oath to uphold the sovereignty of the US Government paramount...


The Army's enlistment oath in 1830:

1633558009969.png


The revised oath of allegiance from August 3, 1861 for West Point cadets:

1633486116381.png


The 1863 Army regulations of the USA, contained the following oath for recruits or volunteer officers generally...

1633557830086.png
 
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NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
I am absolutely certain that every territory or colony that joined the Union did so with the understanding that they could quit and leave it, if later they so desired.
Based on what?

Lee did not violate his oath. He sequentially resigned his commission, and then joined the righteous cause of his home state of Virginia months later.
He submitted his resignation on Saturday night and accepted command of Virginia troops on Monday - 48 hours later, not months. War Department didnt process and accept his resignation until Thursday of that week.
 
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Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
He submitted his resignation on Saturday night and accepted command of Virginia troops on Monday - 48 hours later, not months. War Department didnt process and accept his resignation until Thursday of that week.
Just curious. Is there a case where the War Department didn't accept a resignation?
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
With the secession of South Carolina it was no longer the United States. Thank you for stating Grant invaded a foreign country (CSA). After the war with southern states taken by force it became not the United States, but the "Consolidated States"
That is not what I’m saying. I’m simply pointing out that even if you believe such ridiculousness, Grant did not break his oath as an officer of the United States- he was either suppressing rebellion or fighting a foreign enemy, so no matter if you believe the foolish Lost Cause mubojumbo or not, Grant didn’t break his oath. By the same token, as outlined by @JerryD , Lee did break his oath.

Jerry’s argument hinges on the belief that the oath was not to the “United States” as a single body but rather to each of the individual states included in the United States. If that’s the case then Lee’s oath was just as binding to Pennsylvania as it was to Virginia. He broke that oath.
 
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krkey1

Private
Joined
Oct 5, 2021
I think we have to see this from Lee's perspective. With Virginia leaving the Union and his personal resignation he was no longer bound to his oath. He would argue that circumstances that he could not have known about when he made the oath required him to reject it.
 

mkyzzzrdet

Corporal
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
I dont think you get the point I am making. I admit its a bit legalistic, but then I am a lawyer. Since the oath used the plural to refer to the US, its as if Lee made an oath to each and every state. So how could he comply with his oath if he defended some states, and fought against others? So in a sense, Grant violated his oath when he fought against Virginia, since he swore to defend Virginia against all of its oppressors.

And I did not say secession was legal. I said the legislature voting to secede was a legally permissible act. There was no precedent at that time that said secession was illegal. If you know of any cases on that I would be interested in reading them. It was not until the Supreme Court determined in Texas v. White in 1868 determined that secession was legal. So until the Constitutional question was finally determined one way or another, State legislatures are free to legislate. But after their is a definitive ruling, then sates no longer can legally legislate in areas of settled law. Secession was simply an unsettled question in 1860.

Whether he resigned or not is irrelevant to my legal reasoning.

And I do not think Confederate traitors are heroes. I am no lost causer by any means.
Hmm...If I think that Confederates fought heroically for their beliefs, regardless of however we may disagree with those beliefs, does that make me a "Lost Causer"? In that case I plead "Guilty". I am still not sure exactly what a "lost causer" is anyway.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Hmm...If I think that Confederates fought heroically for their beliefs, regardless of however we may disagree with those beliefs, does that make me a "Lost Causer"? In that case I plead "Guilty". I am still not sure exactly what a "lost causer" is anyway.
I don’t think it does. I too think that confederates fought heroically for their beliefs. We can appreciate their fortitude, bravery, and sacrifice. I think the “lost causer” comes in when folks try to distort the actual history to paint the CSA cause as just (note - not the reason some individual may have signed up and fought but the stated cause of the confederacy as a whole) or when we start to glorify the rebellion and look upon it’s heroes with religious fervor while glossing over or denying that their cause was the protection and propagation of the institution of slavery.
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Please go back to #53. If you wish me to document those dates, I can.

Of course he broke his oath. What else would you call going back on a sworn pledge?
My analysis has nothing to do with dates. That is a completely different discussion from the one I am having.
 

WilliamH

Corporal
Joined
Jul 12, 2016
Location
Point Lookout
Good thread/debate, here is my opinion...

I think Lee broke his oath. Even if you can lawyer the wording to give him an out he still broke the spirit of the oath which was to follow and defend the government of the United States.

However, I also believe that General Lee had certain oaths/loyalties to Virginia and his family/friends who lived there.

So whether he chose Virginia or the United States, Lee would have been a traitor in some ones eyes. In the end he chose to stay loyal to his family and home.

In the eyes/opinions of history that was the wrong decision but perhaps he cared more about the eyes/opinions of those then who were closest to him.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
President Lincoln issued a proclamation on April 15 declaring a "combination" in the Southern States too powerful to be suppressed by US Marshals or the courts were opposed to and obstructing US laws there and called for 75,000 Militia from the several States, and for an emergency session of Congress to convene on July 4... shortly after congress declared a rebellion among the several southern States...and in August he declared the people of these States largely in rebellion.

The State of Virginia declined to provide Militia to the President. Instead organized for its own defense.

April 17, the State of Virginia passed its articles of secession, pending the public referendum (by which secession ratified May 23). Col. Lee resigns his commission, which is accepted on April 25. In the meantime, he accepts commission as Major General of Virginia State forces (a state which had not yet declared itself independent of the USA, though heading in that direction), and commences preparing the defenses of the State.

The situation reminds of some issues during the War of 1812. The Federalist writer John Lowell noted the following in 1813 regarding the Governors of the States resisting potential usurpations by the President over the use of the Militia of the several States. Namely, when or if the US Government itself was acting unconstitutionally or rebelling against the Constitution. Some excerpts...

1633577914769.png


(recall the modified oath to US cadets from August, 1861 by which they were to uphold the sovereignty of the US Government "paramount" regardless of all other allegiances...)

1633578046277.png


1633578605379.png


1633578271295.png


1633578428346.png


The Articles of Secession of April 17 stated the State would be independent of the USA only on a popular affirmative vote by the people (held in May). Prior to that time, regardless of the goings on, Virginia considered itself and its citizens bound by the US Constitution.
 
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Lubliner

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Forum Host
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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
When the States attempted to secede from the Union, they brought significant grievances against the United States and the Constitution; that the oaths that had been sworn were broken and not upheld by the Union, such as Brown's raid on Harpers' Ferry, and the redress for runaway slaves. Also again, the basic right as a citizen to be protected when traveling abroad into another State was not enforced. Therefore, the Confederacy attempted to bring charges against the Union, which declined their approach. They attempted to gather enough commitment and support behind their grievances, and brought the case before the world as the victims of a broken Constitution that was no longer upheld by Supreme Court rulings and Amendments, due to the lack of enforcement. This was done in as legal an environment as they could qualify it to be, for the world to see and respond to. Because their cause was unpopular and unjust, they did not attain the legal recognition they had hoped for. That is the contemporary view of historical documentation, adn we are arguing about the hindsight relativity of the case.
Lubliner.
 

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
That is not what I’m saying. I’m simply pointing out that even if you believe such ridiculousness, Grant did not break his oath as an officer of the United States- he was either suppressing rebellion or fighting a foreign enemy, so no matter if you believe the foolish Lost Cause mubojumbo or not, Grant didn’t break his oath. By the same token, as outlined by @JerryD , Lee did break his oath.

Jerry’s argument hinges on the belief that the oath was not to the “United States” as a single body but rather to each of the individual states included in the United States. If that’s the case then Lee’s oath was just as binding to Pennsylvania as it was to Virginia. He broke that oath.
Mabe not this time, but Grant's "Indian Approriations Act of 1871" ceased Federal recognition of tribes as entities with whom the United States may contract by treaty. Opening the door to the slaughter of Native Americans and defenseless Buffaloe. All so the land grabbing Feds take their land and steal their gold. Who cares about an oath when it's your home that's about to be invaded?
 
President Lincoln issued a proclamation on April 15 declaring a "combination" in the Southern States too powerful to be suppressed by US Marshals or the courts were opposed to and obstructing US laws there and called for 75,000 Militia from the several States, and for an emergency session of Congress to convene on July 4... shortly after congress declared a rebellion among the several southern States...and in August he declared the people of these States largely in rebellion.

The State of Virginia declined to provide Militia to the President. Instead organized for its own defense.

April 17, the State of Virginia passed its articles of secession, pending the public referendum (by which secession ratified May 23). Col. Lee resigns his commission, which is accepted on April 25. In the meantime, he accepts commission as Major General of Virginia State forces (a state which had not yet declared itself independent of the USA, though heading in that direction), and commences preparing the defenses of the State.

The situation reminds of some issues during the War of 1812. The Federalist writer John Lowell noted the following in 1813 regarding the Governors of the States resisting potential usurpations by the President over the use of the Militia of the several States. Namely, when or if the US Government itself was acting unconstitutionally or rebelling against the Constitution. Some excerpts...

View attachment 416772

(recall the modified oath to US cadets from August, 1861 by which they were to uphold the sovereignty of the US Government "paramount" regardless of all other allegiances...)

View attachment 416773

View attachment 416778

View attachment 416776

View attachment 416777

The Articles of Secession of April 17 stated the State would be independent of the USA only on a popular affirmative vote by the people (held in May). Prior to that time, regardless of the goings on, Virginia considered itself and its citizens bound by the US Constitution.

As to the president's authority to determine if rebellion against the United States government is afoot and he could therefore call out the Militia to put it down:
"Is the President the sole and exclusive judge whether the exigency has arisen, or is it to be considered as an open question, upon which every officer to whom the orders of the President are addressed, may decide for himself, and equally open to be contested by every militiaman who shall refuse to obey the orders of the President? We are all of opinion that the authority to decide whether the exigency has arisen belongs exclusively to the President, and that his decision is conclusive upon all other persons. We think that this construction necessarily results from the nature of the power itself and from the manifest object contemplated by the act of Congress. The power itself is to be exercised upon sudden emergencies, upon great occasions of state, and under circumstances which may be vital to the existence of the Union."
Excerpt from U. S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story's majority opinion in Martin v. Mott (1827)
 
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BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
President Lincoln issued a proclamation on April 15 declaring a "combination" in the Southern States too powerful to be suppressed by US Marshals or the courts were opposed to and obstructing US laws there and called for 75,000 Militia from the several States, and for an emergency session of Congress to convene on July 4... shortly after congress declared a rebellion among the several southern States...and in August he declared the people of these States largely in rebellion.

The State of Virginia declined to provide Militia to the President. Instead organized for its own defense.

April 17, the State of Virginia passed its articles of secession, pending the public referendum (by which secession ratified May 23). Col. Lee resigns his commission, which is accepted on April 25. In the meantime, he accepts commission as Major General of Virginia State forces (a state which had not yet declared itself independent of the USA, though heading in that direction), and commences preparing the defenses of the State.

The situation reminds of some issues during the War of 1812. The Federalist writer John Lowell noted the following in 1813 regarding the Governors of the States resisting potential usurpations by the President over the use of the Militia of the several States. Namely, when or if the US Government itself was acting unconstitutionally or rebelling against the Constitution. Some excerpts...

View attachment 416772

(recall the modified oath to US cadets from August, 1861 by which they were to uphold the sovereignty of the US Government "paramount" regardless of all other allegiances...)

View attachment 416773

View attachment 416778

View attachment 416776

View attachment 416777

The Articles of Secession of April 17 stated the State would be independent of the USA only on a popular affirmative vote by the people (held in May). Prior to that time, regardless of the goings on, Virginia considered itself and its citizens bound by the US Constitution.
This is a good argument except for the fact that the supreme court ruled in Mation v Mott 1827 that the President had the sole authority to determine if the conditions for calling forth the militia is exclusively vested in the President.

"The authority to decide whether the exigencies contemplated in the Constitution of the United States and the Act of Congress of 1795, ch. 101, in which the President has authority to call forth the militia, "to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions" have arisen is exclusively vested in the President, and his decision is conclusive upon all other persons."
https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/25/19/

When Virginia refused to provide militia when President Lincoln requested them they were in violation of the constitution.
 
The Articles of Secession of April 17 stated the State would be independent of the USA only on a popular affirmative vote by the people (held in May). Prior to that time, regardless of the goings on, Virginia considered itself and its citizens bound by the US Constitution.
Prior to the May 23, 1861 ratification vote by Virginia's citizens, Virginia state troops by the orders of her state government had attacked and seized 2 Federal properties as well as invading the state of Maryland.
 
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