Did Lee violate his oath?

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
When Virginia refused to provide militia when President Lincoln requested them they were in violation of the constitution.

Is a "combination" (for which Pres. Lincoln called forth the militia) the same thing as an insurrection?

the militia law of 1795 suggests not necessarily. Its first section mentions insurrections..."in any State against the government thereof..."
1633609220526.png

and Sec. 2 "combinations" like that Lincoln called to suppress... were those opposed to the function of US laws in the States...
1633609162104.png


Militia officers who did not accomodate the President's lawful orders:
1633609309679.png


The above was the law in May, 1861 when the State of Virginia ratified its ordinance of secession.

The USA act of July 13, 1861 states the "combination" in the Southern States was composed of insurrectionists, and that the President could declare the people of those States in insurrection...

1633609697024.png


In August, 1861, Pres. Lincoln proclaimed the people of eastern Virginia in insurrection, including Gen. Lee.
 
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BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
Is a "combination" (for which Pres. Lincoln called forth the militia) the same thing as an insurrection?

the militia law of 1795 suggests not necessarily. Its first section mentions insurrections..."in any State against the government thereof..."
View attachment 416791
and Sec. 2 "combinations" like that Lincoln called to suppress... were those opposed to the function of US laws in the States...
View attachment 416790

Militia officers who did not accomodate the President's lawful orders:
View attachment 416792

The above was the law in May, 1861 when the State of Virginia ratified its ordinance of secession.

The USA act of July 13, 1861 states the "combination" in the Southern States was composed of insurrectionists, and that the President could declare the people of those States in insurrection...

View attachment 416793

In August, 1861, Pres. Lincoln proclaimed the people of eastern Virginia in insurrection, including Gen. Lee.
Here's a good thread that discussed Lincoln's use of the militia act. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/legality-of-lincolns-call-up-of-troops.45455/
 

krkey1

Private
Joined
Oct 5, 2021
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.
We can that being stuck in between a rock and hard place. I wish he had sided with the Union. But he didn't....
 

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
We can that being stuck in between a rock and hard place. I wish he had sided with the Union. But he didn't....
I have to disagree with you there, I'm glad he went with Virginia. If he had gone with the union the war probably would have been over within a year or two and slavery would not have been abolished. This most likely would have resulted in slavery lasting until the early 20th century. Which would have made a complete mockery of our DoI.

So I am glad Lee was a traitor.
 

neyankee61

Private
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
Before the CW it was very common for people to say "The United States are..." After the war it became "The United States is.." In the oath it uses the word "them" referring to plural. It may be simple semantics but it does show things in a different light
 

CaptSpook

Private
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
Before the CW it was very common for people to say "The United States are..." After the war it became "The United States is.." In the oath it uses the word "them" referring to plural. It may be simple semantics but it does show things in a different light
Great point and it emphasizes the notion (if not the fact) that prior to the War, the states were not so united, rather, we were a collection of individual states much like we were in Colonial times.

With this in mind, Lee and others chose to leave federal government for his own state.
 
Great point and it emphasizes the notion (if not the fact) that prior to the War, the states were not so united, rather, we were a collection of individual states much like we were in Colonial times.

With this in mind, Lee and others chose to leave federal government for his own state.
My bold:
"It is very true that whenever hostility to the existing system shall become universal, it will be also irresistible. The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will. But this supreme and irresistible power to make or to unmake resides only in the whole body of the people, not in any subdivision of them. The attempt of any of the parts to exercise it is usurpation and ought to be repelled by those to whom the people have delegated their power of repelling it.

"The acknowledged inability of the government, then, to sustain itself against the public will and, by force or otherwise, to control the whole nation is no sound argument in support of its constitutional inability to preserve itself against a section of the Nation acting in opposition to the general will."
Excerpt from SCOTUS Chief Justice John Marshall's 1821 Cohens v. Virginia majority opinion.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Great point and it emphasizes the notion (if not the fact) that prior to the War, the states were not so united, rather, we were a collection of individual states much like we were in Colonial times.

With this in mind, Lee and others chose to leave federal government for his own state.
That was physically not true. In a nation with a rapidly growing railroad network, the largest in the world, and which was wired for telegraph communication, https://eh.net/encyclopedia/history-of-the-u-s-telegraph-industry/, the colonial past was gone. The secessionists knew the US with 34 states, including two Pacific coast states was not a bunch of east coast colonies any longer.
The US couldn't have state currencies and two different labor systems any longer. And Confederate independence would not solve the issue. The two competing expansionist regimes could never have lived in peace.
 
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CaptSpook

Private
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
That was physically not true. In nation with a rapidly growing railroad network, the largest in the world, and which was wired for telegraph communication, https://eh.net/encyclopedia/history-of-the-u-s-telegraph-industry/, the colonial past was gone. The secessionists new the US with 34 states, including two Pacific coast states was not a bunch of east coast colonies any longer.
The US couldn't have state currencies and two different labor systems any longer. And Confederate independence would not solve the issue. The two competing expansionist regimes could never have lived in peace.
My point was that the attitude Americans held prior to the CW (taken in its fullest historical period context) regarding individual state sovereignty as opposed to federal authority was different than after the war.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Great post with interesting info.

I saw that in Sec 3 of the 1795 law, it requires the President to make a proclamation commanding "such insurgents" to disperse

Doesn't the use of "insurgents" imply that "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings" is the same as an insurrection?
Is a "combination" (for which Pres. Lincoln called forth the militia) the same thing as an insurrection?

the militia law of 1795 suggests not necessarily. Its first section mentions insurrections..."in any State against the government thereof..."
View attachment 416791
and Sec. 2 "combinations" like that Lincoln called to suppress... were those opposed to the function of US laws in the States...
View attachment 416790

...
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Doesn't the use of "insurgents" imply that "combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings" is the same as an insurrection?

Whatever the implications of the 1790 law, the 1861 law made the situation clear.

The July 13, 1861 Act of Congress, under which authority Pres. Lincoln shortly after declared the people of the Southern States in insurrection, says the "insurrectionists" were defending the "combinations" which had interposed between the US Govt. and the States, etc. Interestingly, this act was predicated principally on the War Powers of the US Govt. versus the treason clause of the Constitution.. as it included in punishment for insurrection etc. the confiscation of property and imprisonment. The amnesty declared by Lincoln etc. on taking the oath would relieve most against the confiscatory elements of the law...

However, the Confederate States of America, only recognized and continued to the use of the laws of the USA up to November, 1860, and declared attempts by any but the CSA to enforce them, or any US law passed since their secessions, was an invasion... Once the CSA was crushed out, in October, 1865, Gen. Lee took the oath of allegiance recognizing the laws of the Union, and the emancipation, etc., established since the war commenced...

But from 1861 the CSA constitution also included a definition of treason as levying war against the Confederate States, etc. Each State also had its own constitutional or legal provisions regarding treason too.

Everybody knew the punishment of treason was ultimately death. The question for those in the South was to whom would one adhere; because to do nothing was to potentially be declared in insurrection against the USA, the CSA, or one's State in turn or even simultaneously...

I have also seen it said (I think Justice Story in the 1830s) that an individual State cannot have jurisdiction or "cognizance" of treason against the United States (levying war against "them"), while any treason against a State (levying war against "it") which overthrew the State government without impeding the action of of the federal laws therein (like a "combination" would), might not be recognized as treason against the United States...
 
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edfranksphd

Private
Joined
Aug 30, 2019
Didn't *Edited* violate his oath, when he led the plot against his high command? And he didn't even bother to resign! But, since he was summarily executed after the plot's failure, I guess justice was served in the end.
 
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wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
My point was that the attitude Americans held prior to the CW (taken in its fullest historical period context) regarding individual state sovereignty as opposed to federal authority was different than after the war.
Maybe some people thought that way, or rationalized it that way. But the war itself demonstrated that was wrong. There was a transportation and communication revolution between 1844 and 1860 as noted by Grant later. The state governments were not nearly strong enough to contend with Washington, let alone international predators willing to pick them off one by one.
It was a different world already by 1860. And steel, kerosene, electric lights and dynamite were coming.
Tragically the Confederates thought they could avoid the future, but they accelerated its arrival instead.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
My point was that the attitude Americans held prior to the CW (taken in its fullest historical period context) regarding individual state sovereignty as opposed to federal authority was different than after the war.
Apparently not. Your point isn’t backed up by the folks of the time and as all can see it isn’t backed up by the historical record.

Your idea is a fantasy.
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
My point was that the attitude Americans held prior to the CW (taken in its fullest historical period context) regarding individual state sovereignty as opposed to federal authority was different than after the war.
You are exactly right, but people today can't grasp that point because they are stuck in a 21st century mindset. Its a fact that Shelby Foote pointed that before the CW the United States was referred to as a "them", and after it, it was an "is". And as he so poetically pointed out, despite the existence of railroads, the vast majority of people lived their whole live within 20 miles of where they were born. The War gave hundreds of thousands the experience of traveling throughout the country and seeing it, actually experiencing it in all its diversity. So the War not only changed how people viewed the US as a collection of sovereign states, but it also made the breadth of the country real to many, many people.
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Apparently not. Your point isn’t backed up by the folks of the time and as all can see it isn’t backed up by the historical record.

Your idea is a fantasy.
I would argue the historical record is exactly opposite of what you assert. Its simply a fact that in documents referring to the United States, such as the oath of allegiance, the US was referred to as "them". Even the Constitution used the term "them" to refer to the US. That is the historic record.
 

rrlindsey5

Cadet
Joined
May 13, 2021
I was just reading an article on the renaming of US Army bases and saw a quote from General Miley, in which he stated that these CSA officers who had bses named after them had "violated their oaths" by taking up arms against the US. I've always argued otherwise, based on the fact that the oath military officers took before the Civil War stated "I do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiant to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies and oppressors...." (emphasis added).

Based on the use of "them" to describe the US, it seems obvious to me that Lee, and other officers, took an oath to defend all of the States comprising the US, and when some off those States made war against some other States, that the oath became non-operable. Clearly the oath viewed the US as a collection of States, each of which has a claim of protection under the oath. But when those States warred on each other, then the oath became non-applicable.

This does not address whether secession was legal under the Constitution nor about the whole argument of treason vs. expatriation, but is solely limited to the oft stated argument that Lee and others broke their military oaths.

I think a more compelling argument for re-naming the bases is based on so many of the honored officers were incompetent. Fort Bragg? Really??? What message does that send to our young warriors?
Doesn't really matter. Once resigned, the Oath no longer applies. Unless, we think that former soldiers, Police Officers, and Politicians have to honor that oath for life. Only applies when you are serving in the capacity in which you took the Oath.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
My point was that the attitude Americans held prior to the CW (taken in its fullest historical period context) regarding individual state sovereignty as opposed to federal authority was different than after the war.
That has been offered as a defense for men like General Lee many times. In rebuttal I contend that its not rational for any officer or soldier who fought for the US army in Mexico, (an off soil invasion) to still believe the states were just a defense alliance. Only an empire invades its neighbors and takes the territory.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The war demonstrated that view had no currency. While fighting a Civil War the national government instituted a national currency on an ad hoc basis. The US connected a wire to California. And the US deployed a navy which was probably the 3rd ranked navy in the world. And all the while the US economy was growing.
On a historical basis people set the context of the Civil War on the static positions shown in the 1860 census. They don't observe the dynamic process set loose in the US by the great decrease in the virulence of small pox, international immigration, and the advantage all weather railroads had relative to rivers and canals.
The real relative strengths of the two contestants is shown by the breadth and complexity of the US economy as compiled in the 1870 census.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
During the Civil War the US deployed a mighty navy. It finished the war, liquidated the navy and then in four years completed the world's first transcontinental railroad.
People might have thought their state governments were strong, but they were wrong. The US federal government in had unlimited wealth and energy at it disposal. The real world was demonstrated the US war effort was a locomotive on a descending grade. The longer the US fought, the stronger it became.
 
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