Were Confederate Generals Traitors?

CMWinkler

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Were Confederate Generals Traitors?
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By Walter E. Williams | June 27, 2017 | 8:37 AM EDT



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At the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s Battle of Chancellorsville, a Confederate re-enactor issues orders to troops to get them into position during the re-enactment of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack against the Union XI Corps. (DOD Photo/Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper, Soldiers Live)
My "Rewriting American History" column of a fortnight ago, about the dismantling of Confederate monuments, generated considerable mail.

Some argued there should not be statues honoring traitors such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, who fought against the Union. Victors of wars get to write the history, and the history they write often does not reflect the facts. Let's look at some of the facts and ask: Did the South have a right to secede from the Union? If it did, we can't label Confederate generals as traitors.

More: http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/walter-e-williams/were-confederate-generals-traitors#disqus_thread
 

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NedBaldwin

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The claim that I often see of "The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified — and a union never created — if the people of those 13 "free sovereign and Independent States" did not believe that they had the right to secede." is just speculation. I think it can just as easily be said that a Constitution would never have been ratified if the people of the state didnt think the US could enforce the law.

Also, to claim that "on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had" is weak cherry picking. During January - February of 1861, the Legislatures of the States of NY, MN, MI , MA, PA and CTWI had all passed resolutions denying secession as a right. [edited]
 
Last edited:

cash

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Walter Williams is not as accomplished a liar as Clyde Williams, but he tries harder. The mythical right to secede unilaterally is incompatible with the Supreme Court's rulings prior to the Civil War, which Walter doesn't tell us.

Edited by Chellers, Moderator.

In this passage he tells a bald-faced lie:

"At the Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution,' rejected it."

There was no proposal to suppress a seceding state. It was a proposal to use force against a state that was delinquent in upholding its obligations, as states had been delinquent under the Articles of Confederation. It had nothing to do with secession and everything to do with taxation and providing support for the nation.
 

cash

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The claim that I often see of "The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified — and a union never created — if the people of those 13 "free sovereign and Independent States" did not believe that they had the right to secede." is just speculation. I think it can just as easily be said that a Constitution would never have been ratified if the people of the state didnt think the US could enforce the law.

Also, to claim that "on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had" is weak cherry picking. During January - February of 1861, the Legislatures of the States of NY, MN, MI , MA, PA and CT had all passed resolutions denying secession as a right.
Exactly. Patrick Henry, for one, said loud and clear there would be no way to get out of the Constitution once it was ratified. No one contradicted him on this and Virginia went ahead and ratified it. The portion of the ratification Williams quotes is clear that it's talking about all the people of the United States, not the people of a single state.
 

jgoodguy

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Walter Williams is not as accomplished a liar as Clyde Williams, but he tries harder. The mythical right to secede unilaterally is incompatible with the Supreme Court's rulings prior to the Civil War, which Walter doesn't tell us.

Edited by Chellers, Moderator.

In this passage he tells a bald-faced lie:

"At the Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution,' rejected it."

There was no proposal to suppress a seceding state. It was a proposal to use force against a state that was delinquent in upholding its obligations, as states had been delinquent under the Articles of Confederation. It had nothing to do with secession and everything to do with taxation and providing support for the nation.
One of the attributes of CWT is being polite. Please pay attention to that. Thanks
 

CSA Today

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Walter Williams is not as accomplished a liar as Clyde Williams, but he tries harder. The mythical right to secede unilaterally is incompatible with the Supreme Court's rulings prior to the Civil War, which Walter doesn't tell us.

Edited by Chellers, Moderator.

In this passage he tells a bald-faced lie:

"At the Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution,' rejected it."

There was no proposal to suppress a seceding state. It was a proposal to use force against a state that was delinquent in upholding its obligations, as states had been delinquent under the Articles of Confederation. It had nothing to do with secession and everything to do with taxation and providing support for the nation.
So anyone who doesn't agree with you is a liar?
 

CMWinkler

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Chellers and JG were kinder than I would have been. Attacking people as being liars simply because one disagrees with their opinion is not acceptable. If you want to disagree, disagree. Do not start name calling with the intent to derailing a thread with which you disagree. There's plenty of ugliness in our world today, must we continue to add to it?

Posted as a Moderator.
 

Potomac Pride

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Exactly. Patrick Henry, for one, said loud and clear there would be no way to get out of the Constitution once it was ratified. No one contradicted him on this and Virginia went ahead and ratified it. The portion of the ratification Williams quotes is clear that it's talking about all the people of the United States, not the people of a single state.
The quote from the ratification that Williams used was actually later included in the VA Ordinance of Secession of 1861. Therefore, it is clear that the state of VA considered this section to apply to a single state.
 

cash

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The quote from the ratification that Williams used was actually later included in the VA Ordinance of Secession of 1861. Therefore, it is clear that the state of VA considered this section to apply to a single state.
Nope. They specifically said, "the people of the United States." John Marshall, a member of that ratification convention, said the power to make or unmake the government belongs to all the people, not just to a subdivision of them. That's clear that a single state has no power to unilaterally secede.
 

Patrick H

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were Civil War generals traitors. I believe they were if they were in the United States Army at the time and left to join the Confederacy..
This strikes me as a reasonable and accurate opinion. Well, Dang!, I wish it weren't so, but we can't rewind more than 150 years of history, can we? US Army officers who left the Union to serve with the Confederacy were technically traitors, and there's no getting around it. I believe they followed their individual consciences, but that doesn't absolve them of their treason to the USA.

That said, please read on. I am a great believer in and follower of President Lincoln's remarks when he said: "With malice towards none. With Charity for all."

I'm right THERE with Mr. Lincoln....that's where our hearts should be with regard to our brethren.
 

Patrick H

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Chellers and JG were kinder than I would have been. Attacking people as being liars simply because one disagrees with their opinion is not acceptable. If you want to disagree, disagree. Do not start name calling with the intent to derailing a thread with which you disagree. There's plenty of ugliness in our world today, must we continue to add to it?

Posted as a Moderator.
I wish I could like this twice!
 

jgoodguy

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This strikes me as a reasonable and accurate opinion. Well, Dang!, I wish it weren't so, but we can't rewind more than 150 years of history, can we? US Army officers who left the Union to serve with the Confederacy were technically traitors, and there's no getting around it. I believe they followed their individual consciences, but that doesn't absolve them of their treason to the USA.

That said, please read on. I am a great believer in and follower of President Lincoln's remarks when he said: "With malice towards none. With Charity for all."

I'm right THERE with Mr. Lincoln....that's where our hearts should be with regard to our brethren.
One could say that being in the horrors of war is sufficient punishment.
 

Rebforever

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The claim that I often see of "The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified — and a union never created — if the people of those 13 "free sovereign and Independent States" did not believe that they had the right to secede." is just speculation. I think it can just as easily be said that a Constitution would never have been ratified if the people of the state didnt think the US could enforce the law.

Also, to claim that "on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had" is weak cherry picking. During January - February of 1861, the Legislatures of the States of NY, MN, MI , MA, PA and CT had all passed resolutions denying secession as a right.

Got a source for this statement?
 

DaveGberg

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Williams is asserting something as a given, that was under hot debate by opposite sides since the Constitution convention. He cites the ratification debates:

"The powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression."
Most of the constitutional opinions that I've read have taken this to be an affirmation that the powers of the federal government are derived from the people, and that the people have the right to change those powers. That process was execised 27 times through the amendment process, not by unilateral secession.

I will be polite, but Williams is definitely taking liberties when he implies that Madison had supported secession. In fact, Madison had gone on record several times strongly against unilateral secession.
 

Potomac Pride

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Nope. They specifically said, "the people of the United States." John Marshall, a member of that ratification convention, said the power to make or unmake the government belongs to all the people, not just to a subdivision of them. That's clear that a single state has no power to unilaterally secede.
Virginia's Ordinance of Secession stated that the perversion of power by the federal government caused injury to the people of VA but also resulted in the oppression of the southern states. They weren't just talking about their own state but the other southern states as well. Therefore, these were "the people of the United States" that were originally referred to in the ratification document. I think the people of Virginia knew what they were talking about in their own secession document. However, you will probably say they were liars also just because you don't agree.
 

DaveGberg

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I will be polite, but Williams is definitely taking liberties when he implies that Madison had supported secession. In fact, Madison had gone on record several times strongly against unilateral secession.
Disagreements are fine, but when I see someone taking liberties with the truth to prove a point I have to question the premise. Regarding treason, I think that the actions of the confederate generals had qualified as levying war against the United States. However, Lincoln and his successors had the foresight not to got that route, so in that respect I let the question pass.
 

DaveGberg

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Virginia's Ordinance of Secession stated that the perversion of power by the federal government caused injury to the people of VA but also resulted in the oppression of the southern states. They weren't just talking about their own state but the other southern states as well. Therefore, these were "the people of the United States" that were originally referred to in the ratification document. I think the people of Virginia knew what they were talking about in their own secession document. However, you will probably say they were liars also just because you don't agree.
But just because a state proclaims its secession doesn't mean the Union has to honor it. The nation has the right to put down rebellions... when is a secession a secession and when is it a rebellion? And who decides?
 


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