Fort Sumter

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trice

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Honestly, I don't think those questions are all that relevant. I'm certainly not the first to make this comparison, but I think the whole situation is closely paralleled by the situation at Guantanamo Bay.

We signed a lease with Cuba at a time when they were our friend. They've been trying to get us to leave since the 1950's but there is nothing they can do about it short of attacking the base and starting a war with the United States. Do you think they would be justified in doing this?

It's exactly the same case with Fort Sumter. South Carolina ceded the title to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie in the 1840's at a time when they were a friend of the Federal Government. If secession was constitutional—which IMO it was not—then South Carolina was a sovereign state when they ceded the title to the Federal Government. They had no legal right to take it back just because the relationship between them and the Federal government changed, just as Cuba has no legal right to take back Guantanamo Bay just because the relationship between them and the United States has changed.
More relevant to the complaints of the secessionists in 1860, consider the situation of the British fortress at Gibraltar in Spain, guarding the strait and potentially cutting off sea traffic from one half of Spain to the other at any time. Spain certainly would like it back -- but trying to seize it would definitely be an act of war.

Tim
 

timewalker

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More relevant to the complaints of the secessionists in 1860, consider the situation of the British fortress at Gibraltar in Spain, guarding the strait and potentially cutting off sea traffic from one half of Spain to the other at any time. Spain certainly would like it back -- but trying to seize it would definitely be an act of war.

Tim
Indeed, probably a better analogy. And Franco would not try to sieze it even with Hitler breathing down his neck to do so.

Some other analogies where an end to the "lease" was negotiated instead of military action taken would be Hong Kong and the Panama Canal zone. History is replete with situations in which sovereign territory was deeded to another sovereign entity and any attempt to seize such territory would be seen as an act of war. This is especially true at the time of the Civil War when it was standard procedure to occupy all or part of another country when it simply repudiated its debts (c.f., Vera Cruz).
 

DHPatrick

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Honestly, I don't think those questions are all that relevant. I'm certainly not the first to make this comparison, but I think the whole situation is closely paralleled by the situation at Guantanamo Bay.

We signed a lease with Cuba at a time when they were our friend. They've been trying to get us to leave since the 1950's but there is nothing they can do about it short of attacking the base and starting a war with the United States. Do you think they would be justified in doing this?

It's exactly the same case with Fort Sumter. South Carolina ceded the title to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie in the 1840's at a time when they were a friend of the Federal Government. If secession was constitutional—which IMO it was not—then South Carolina was a sovereign state when they ceded the title to the Federal Government. They had no legal right to take it back just because the relationship between them and the Federal government changed, just as Cuba has no legal right to take back Guantanamo Bay just because the relationship between them and the United States has changed.
Parrot Gun,

Even in most legal matters precedence normally is viewed as the standard. I don't believe that Guantanamo Bay had occured at the time of Fort Sumter.

In the case of Fort Sumter, the South had given the North a declaration. The North was left with defending the Union and the South with defending their newly declared independance. Both sides chose to exercise their options.
 
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trice

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Indeed, probably a better analogy. And Franco would not try to sieze it even with Hitler breathing down his neck to do so.

Some other analogies where an end to the "lease" was negotiated instead of military action taken would be Hong Kong and the Panama Canal zone. History is replete with situations in which sovereign territory was deeded to another sovereign entity and any attempt to seize such territory would be seen as an act of war. This is especially true at the time of the Civil War when it was standard procedure to occupy all or part of another country when it simply repudiated its debts (c.f., Vera Cruz).
Britain seized Gibraltar in 1704, and was awarded ownership under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. There have been 2 sieges of Gibraltar since then: the 13th in 1727 and the 14th or Great Siege in 1779-1783. Spain started trying to re-assert its' claim through the UN in 1954; I'm unclear on how that has all worked out. The land border was closed by Spain for about 30 years.

Tim
 

Parrott Gun

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Parrot Gun,

Even in most legal matters precedence normally is viewed as the standard. I don't believe that Guantanamo Bay had occured at the time of Fort Sumter.

In the case of Fort Sumter, the South had given the North a declaration. The North was left with defending the Union and the South with defending their newly declared independance. Both sides chose to exercise their options.

Never claimed it as a precedent, just an analogy. You never answered my question. Do you think Cuba would be justified in attacking Guantanamo Bay? If not, what is different about that situation that makes it unjustified as opposed to Sumter. You can ignore the fact that both are/were indisputable acts of war under international law whereas the actions of the federal governement in both cases were not. I'm simply asking for your opinion.
 

DHPatrick

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Never claimed it as a precedent, just an analogy. You never answered my question. Do you think Cuba would be justified in attacking Guantanamo Bay? If not, what is different about that situation that makes it unjustified as opposed to Sumter. You can ignore the fact that both are/were indisputable acts of war under international law whereas the actions of the federal governement in both cases were not. I'm simply asking for your opinion.
Parrott Gun,

I attempted to tell you in a friendly way that Guantanamo could not have been germane to the reasoning of the South or the North in 1861. When we talk about the South's or the North's justifications for doing something are we in fact talking about our present day justification or lack there so of?
 
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trice

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Parrott Gun,

I attempted to tell you in a friendly way that Guantanamo could not have been germane to the reasoning of the South or the North in 1861. When we talk about the South's or the North's justifications for doing something are we in fact talking about our present day justification or lack there so of?
So? If you'd prefer, take note of the situation of British possession of Gibraltar from 1713 on, as I suggested in this thread a few messages back.

Tim
 

DHPatrick

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A revolution does not start with both sides not being wrong or right. Someone brings it on or someone has issues that bring it on. It does not start in a complete political and social vacuum.

IMO.

Unionblue
Unionblue

I do believe it is a matter of perspective. The South believing in their motives and the North believing in theirs. I do believe that a war can be started with both sides believing they are correct.

Sometimes things are just simply not black or white. I admit that would make things simplier, but I suspect our days of black and white hats were not always there - except in the movies. Particularily the older cowboy movies. Good olde Bob Steele and Gene Autry.

Maybe having been in Intel you can appeciate this. Several times in my life I was required to work directly for General and Flag Officers. They tended to be busy people - every minute of their time was micro-managed. Among my many duties, I was required to read and order all the papers and messages that were received each day. For simplicity, I'll say I there were two categories in their reading files - Important and Information. Believe me, if I messed up and placed an important document in the informational area or visa versa - I was the first to know.

One of the documents I had to review was a special DOD news summary that was issued every Thursday. It was considered a very sensitive 'eyes only' document. I don't believe even the SSO vault had the courage to read it. Personaly, reading it, I only saw normal news events. Once I asked Gen Jaggers, what purpose it served. He said it provided him with the 'real' news. He couldn't always depend on the normal news sources to provide the 'real' news. Apparently that logic even went so far to apply to even official US new releases. He mentioned something or other about about 'gray' information.

So intrigued, I asked him, why the 'eyes only' classification? It didn't make any sense to me. He said we didn't want the other side(s) to really know what we knew or were hiding concerning such matters.

My point, things are not always even keeled, nor are they always black & white.

Sorry guess I digress too much. Maybe it is the friendly side of me at work.
 

DHPatrick

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So? If you'd prefer, take note of the situation of British possession of Gibraltar from 1713 on, as I suggested in this thread a few messages back.

Tim
Tim

Good point.

Though I doubt the South or the North would have allowed some other foreign country's interest to determine their course. Certainly not the North, as I believe it tended to be more for isolationism.
 
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trice

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Tim

Good point.

Though I doubt the South or the North would have allowed some other foreign country's interest to determine their course. Certainly not the North, as I believe it tended to be more for isolationism.
Not their interest -- just the sitaution.

Spain legally gave Gibraltar to Britain. The British owned Gibraltar -- and still do. It doesn't matter that Spain would like it back, the British still own it.

South Carolina legally gave the spot where Fort Sumter stands to the United States. The United States owned it, under both US and South Carolina law. It doesn't matter that South Carolina would like it back, the United States still own it.

If South Carolina tries to seize it, they are acting illegally, if they are still part of the United States. If they are, somehow, an independent nation, this is an act of war. Those are the only choices.

Tim
 

DHPatrick

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Dear DHPatrick;

The problem concerning Fort Sumter was; that it was a US Government fort that was occupied.

It was on state soil however; the problem is/was; the legal rights to access the fort when it became an island per se. In property law; if you bought a house that existed before you bought it; say on a farm and the farm was broken up into patches; suddenly--you have no road or way to get there; without trespassing on someone else's property. So, that was the problem. You have a right to access your house but, the legal problem--how to do so without violating other's rights?

Then on top of that; having given the US Government permission to have a fort by agreement in the past and past administration; then suddenly when secession rears its head; the state that Ft. Sumter sat upon said; in affect -- "We declare Ft Sumter ours because its on our soil." Problem is/was -- it was 'gifted'/'given'/appropriated for the national defense--by that state to the US Government a patch of land for the fort and it would be 'fairly reasonably' self contained. So, as I see it - the state gave the land to the US Government to build Ft. Sumter and then a generation or so later-they want it back -- ok; so would you give a gift given by others in an earlier and more friendly time? Or, give it back without compensation? Well, the state didn't want to compensate the US Government--they wanted to seize it. And, seized it they did--which would be, to me--no different from snatching a gift of times past; now my property due to being a gift; is being stolen. Or, no different if I gave you a gift and months later (to be fast here); demand it back and if you don't give it back--I take it back; no matter how much you protest and or ignore your request for equal value to replace the snatched item.

Where it should have gone; was to court. The ownership rights to Ft. Sumter should have gone there first; to establish ownership, compensation and whatever loose ends there were.

Personally, I don't think it was a Southern/Northern political issue but, entirely legal. Rights of the US Government to operate the fort, to which was there and a state who wants it back.

Just some thoughts.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,
M. E. Wolf
M. E. Wolf,

I must say your discussion intrigued me. ...and you do have good points. Access was a dimension I had not actually considered.

I will say that I doubt that the US honored any of the property rights held previously by the British. We certainly didn't re-imburse them for any of their losses in that regard.

I not sure that it is really relievant for me to bring up the Revolutionery War in this discussion, but it did involve secession, revolution, or something to that effect. And there were certainly property rights issues involved.

Guess I suspect that secession is so outragious as to say, we are not going to play by your rules anymore.
 

DHPatrick

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Not their interest -- just the sitaution.

Spain legally gave Gibraltar to Britain. The British owned Gibraltar -- and still do. It doesn't matter that Spain would like it back, the British still own it.

South Carolina legally gave the spot where Fort Sumter stands to the United States. The United States owned it, under both US and South Carolina law. It doesn't matter that South Carolina would like it back, the United States still own it.

If South Carolina tries to seize it, they are acting illegally, if they are still part of the United States. If they are, somehow, an independent nation, this is an act of war. Those are the only choices.

Tim
Tim

On a level playing field and in the pure legal sense you are correct.

Secession is a way of telling the North, the South is no longer going to honor their previous agreements. ...in affect all bets are off. Consider, can your think of any agreement the South would have honored after secession - less it was in their vested interest?

On the other hand, the North did not want to honor the secession. In that belief, did they have every right to attempt to hold Fort Sumter - absolutely.
 
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timewalker

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As to Wolf's point about access, the common law recognizes an implied easement (or right) of access to property. If I deed to you the front half of my land (the part along the road) and keep the back half but forget to keep a little strip out to the road, I have an implied access easement which allows me to drive on your land to reach mine.

An international analogy would be West Berlin. The Soviets tried to shut off access to the city and force its evacuation by cutting off road and rail access. The United States claimed the right of overflight of East German territory to supply the city and said it would be an act of war to prevent the overflights necessary to supply the city.

If South Carolina was still part of the United States, they had no right to stop Federal resupply efforts. If South Carolina indeed seceeded and became an independent nation, then they committed an act of war by stopping access to United States Territory (which the fort was).
 

trice

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M. E. Wolf,

I must say your discussion intrigued me. ...and you do have good points. Access was a dimension I had not actually considered.

I will say that I doubt that the US honored any of the property rights held previously by the British. We certainly didn't re-imburse them for any of their losses in that regard.
Beyond any doubt, the American Revolution was an act of illegal rebellion under British law. The lives of all those in rebellion against their rightful King was forfeit, should the King's government so choose -- unless, of course, the Rebels won.

I not sure that it is really relievant for me to bring up the Revolutionery War in this discussion, but it did involve secession, revolution, or something to that effect. And there were certainly property rights issues involved.
Not "secession" as "the South" claimed it in 1860, which was a supposed legal right. If "natural right of revolution" is supposedly beyond the law, emanating from God, and comes down to trial by combat determining which side is in the right. As R. E. Lee said after the Civil War, Union victory determined that.

Guess I suspect that secession is so outragious as to say, we are not going to play by your rules anymore.
Inaccurate. It was not "your rules", it was the rules everyone had agreed to that "the South" decided not to play by. Essentially, they decided they wanted to break the agreement, and claimed they had every legal right to do so -- when that was not established.

Tim
 

ole

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An important point was made a few pages back: that of symbolism. South Carolina and other seceding states could not truly appear soverign on the world stage with Federal property within its borders. Conversely, the U.S. would look rather effete on the world stage if it simply ceded the forts on demand of a dissident minority.

Guantanamo, although too long after the war to be considered a precedent, is a valid analogy in that it was arranged in accordance with international practice as it was understood well before the USCW.

So we have an internationally significant symbol feeding the contention; and we have a legal factor which ought to have been hashed out in the courts before secession.

Sending commissioners to Buchanan with the intention of buying back the fort and compensating the government for the property therein was patently naive: Buchanan could not negotiate in lieu of the Congress.

The proper way to secede would have been to work through Congress for an agreement to allow it and cede possession of the forts in Charleston's harbor. Again, symbolic haste interfered with reason: the secessions must take place before the Black Republican was inaugurated.

Although the slavocrats might have had some legitimate fears for their status quo, they certainly misfired in their actions.

ole
 
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trice

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On a level playing field and in the pure legal sense you are correct.
Obviously. It is straight fact. But the secessionists maintained the law did not apply to their situation -- while claiming they were only exercising their legal rights. They also attacked the United States first -- and claimed the United States was the aggressor. Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?

Secession is a way of telling the North, the South is no longer going to honor their previous agreements. ...in affect all bets are off. Consider, can your think of any agreement the South would have honored after secession - less it was in their vested interest?
IOW, you agree that "the South" was acting illegally and was the aggressor?

On the other hand, the North did not want to honor the secession.
Why would they "honor" a theoretical claim to a highly-debated unilateral "right of secession" they had never agreed to in the first place? Why would they submit to being attacked and robbed without protest?

In that belief, did they have every right to attempt to hold Fort Sumter - absolutely.
They don't have to give it to the highwayman with the gun? What a concept -- but entirely against what "the South" claimed.

Tim
 

Freddy

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I will say that I doubt that the US honored any of the property rights held previously by the British. We certainly didn't re-imburse them for any of their losses in that regard.

I not sure that it is really relievant for me to bring up the Revolutionery War in this discussion, but it did involve secession, revolution, or something to that effect. And there were certainly property rights issues involved.
In 1783 in the Treaty of Paris that recognized US independence Great Britain ceeded all land between the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and the Great Lakes to the US. It was the British who illegally maintained forts in US territory, engaged in a profitable and illegal fur trade on US territory, and armed Indians while encouraging them to raid US settlements. So what were the British property rights that the US failed to honor?
 

trice

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An important point was made a few pages back: that of symbolism. South Carolina and other seceding states could not truly appear soverign on the world stage with Federal property within its borders. Conversely, the U.S. would look rather effete on the world stage if it simply ceded the forts on demand of a dissident minority.
Symbolism can be powerful, and it is easy to see the point you are making here. This is the posturing and brinkmanship of politics.

Guantanamo, although too long after the war to be considered a precedent, is a valid analogy in that it was arranged in accordance with international practice as it was understood well before the USCW.
Agreed. Gibraltar is a better precedent, but the situation of an enclave within another country has lots of roots. Hong Kong and Macao are also later than the Civil War, but show the practice was common enough in the world -- and we can find lots of places around the world where British-French-Portuguese-etc. maintained footholds well before the Civil War.

So we have an internationally significant symbol feeding the contention; and we have a legal factor which ought to have been hashed out in the courts before secession.

Sending commissioners to Buchanan with the intention of buying back the fort and compensating the government for the property therein was patently naive: Buchanan could not negotiate in lieu of the Congress.

The proper way to secede would have been to work through Congress for an agreement to allow it and cede possession of the forts in Charleston's harbor. Again, symbolic haste interfered with reason: the secessions must take place before the Black Republican was inaugurated.

Although the slavocrats might have had some legitimate fears for their status quo, they certainly misfired in their actions.
Both Lincoln and Buchanan believed they did not have the legal power to recognize secession, and thus could not legally give up any territory. Congress might have had that power -- which makes it clear how silly it was for the Southerners to withdraw from Congress before the deal was done.

I think there was more than symbolism involved on the haste to secede before Lincoln came to office. Waiting risked letting "secession fever" settle down. People migh realize that Lincoln wasn't such a threat, and that things could be worked out within the Union, if the extremists let Lincoln have six months or a year in office.

Tim
 
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matthew mckeon

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We can find plenty of examples of foreign toeholds in a country's territory. But the reality of the country was not in question, as it was in 1861. If Lincoln had said "boys, secede, it's fine with me, but I want to keep Ft. Sumter." most secessionists would have said "hell, yes!" to that deal.

But what Lincoln was saying is: "secession isn't going to happen. The federal government will not relinquish its authority over all the US. Starting with Ft. Sumter."

At the same time, the middle Southern states(especially VA) were wavering. Davis was leading an experiment. He thinks: "If we push at Charleston, Lincoln will push back. And the upper South will have a choice: shoot at Southerners or shoot at Yankees." He was correct that enough, if not all, would prefer to shoot at Yankees. So he gets most of what he wants, and a viable nation, if they could keep it.

He also overtly starts the shooting, and the indifference in the North vanishes. It would have anyway(preserving the Union was a goal not solely dependent on firing on Sumter), but Davis pulled a Pearl Harbor. An initial victory with long term consequences.
 

OpnDownfall

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Lincoln was telling the south that there was no such thing as a 'legal' right of states to unilaterally secede from the Union.
 
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