soldier with rifle american civil war THE
SESQUICENTENNIAL
EDITION

 

 



The art of an English major writing crap. "The old revisionist history:" what is that? "Social media memes claim:" How does a "social media meme claim?"

Did R.E. Lee "oppose secession" in 1861? Well, what does the record tell us Lee actually said? Lee said nothing in public at any time, during the run up to war, on the issue of secession. He did express his view of the matter, however, in private letters he wrote to his sons and to his wife, Mary, during the period December 1860 to March 1861.

On December 14, 1860, from Texas, R.E. wrote his son Custis: "I hope the wisdom and the patriotism of the country will devise some way of saving it. The three propostions of President Buchanan are eminently just, are in accordance with the Constitution, and ought to be assented to by all the States. But I do not think the Northern and Western States will agree to them."

In his State of the Union Address, on December 3, 1860, President Buchanan said this:

"How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, is to leave the slave States alone and permit them to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible for the slavery existing among them."

 

Joe Ryan comments:

In these words of the President's, we find the cause of the coming war. The "responsibility" for slavery among the "States" begins with the British monarchs, who, with Charles II in 1662, established the policy of introducing Africans into the royal colonies occupying the Atlantic seaboard of the continent. Between 1662 and 1672, the Royal African Company, managed by Charles's brother, the future king, James Duke of York, transported 100,000 Africans from Africa to the King's colonies in the Carribean. A small number of these were diverted to Virginia and, later, to Carolina. African slaves were also introduced into Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachussets, but in the latter three colonies they never became a meaningful presence. By 1750, the English had moved about a million Africans to Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

By 1790, the responsibility for slavery was inherited by the newly formed United States of America. When the first Congress of the United States convened, there were about 200,000 Africans within the nascent American nation of 2 million white Englishmen. If ever there were a time to establish the law recognizing the Africans to be free within what we now call America, this was the moment to do it; for, even the dumbest must have recognized that the Africans among them would multipy like mice in a barn. (See, e.g., Thomas Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population, published anonymously in 1798.) And, with the multiplication, not only would there be no way to get rid of them but, concentrated as they were in Virginia and the Carolinas, they would soon be threatening the white majority for control of their political communities. So, it is hardly a surprise, that Pennsylvania moved in the first Congress that the supreme law of the land be changed to recognize the Africans as free, and the motion was seconded by Massachussetts. But South Carolina, whose population was almost equally divided between black people and white people, said, "No;" said that, if such were to happen, South Carolina would secede from the Union which, then, was but ten years old.

And the problem—the dilemma—laid on the table for seventy years; hardly a single life time but in that time the African population swelled to about four millions, concentrated now not only in Virginia and Carolina but in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisania and Texas, with more in Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware. And, during this seventy years, the States above the Mason-Dixon Line—Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, the states of New England, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa—erected legal barriers to the immigration of Africans, whether slave runaways or free, into their political communities, so that though some of these States recognized Africans who got in, as free, in none of them, until the eve of the war, were Africans endowed by law with the right to vote, the right to live where they pleased in the community, the right to send their children to the school of their choice. They lived on the margins of the white society, subject to being rousted at the first white cry of alarm.


And, so, responsibility for the "problem" in the end falls squarely in the lap of the whole white people of the Antibellum Union, because they could not bring themselves to accept the Africans into their political communities as citizens. And it was this fact that accounts for the war R.E., in his letter to Custis, plainly sees coming: the fact that the white people of the North did not want to share responsibility with the white people of the South, for the existence of slavery in the Union; the former wanted the Africans to remain bottled up where they were, while a fantic fringe among them were incessantly screaming that the Africans must be free. Under such circumstance, the white people of the South understood what their future was to be in the Union, and they, as the sovereign people they were, decided to go forward in the world, out of the Union; and that is what they did.



Note: What the kids are blind to, ignorant as they are, is that Clay's statement is precisely correct. So, the white people of the North irrevocably committed themselves to live in a Union of States in which slavery was sanctioned by the Supreme Law of the Land, and could never be abolished without three-fourths of the people of the States agreeing to amend the Supreme Law. So, by 1860, the New England fantics were agitating for abolition they knew could not come, within the operation of the Supreme Law, without three fourths agreement. This, they were brushing aside, knowing that the mass of Northern white people would not allow Africans to be citizens in their political communities, much less allow Africans to migrate into the Western territories which they meant to be used by themselves alone.



Note: This is, of course, exactly what happened in the aftermath of the Africans on the Carribean Islands gaining their freedom. In the French colony of Santo Domingo, it was a blood bath: the Blacks, numbering in the 100,000s, murdered every white man, woman, and child who had not escaped as the revolution occurred. Today, 200 years later, the Black people living on the Island live in a state of abject poverty. They are ignorant, prone to incessant revolutions. But they are "free." Jamaica's experience, as well as the others, is not much better, without the whites to manage the production of the plantations, the economies fell apart. The whites simply went to England with the money and left the Blacks to starve. On top of this, England and France coerced the Blacks in the islands to pay "reparations" for the loss of the lands and the loss of the business enterprises.


Note: The Abolitionists took the view that, in the abolition process they were agitating to accomplish, they did not intend to support the policy of providing compensation to the slave owners for the loss of the value of the labor of the Africans, notwithstanding the fact that they knew abolition would create immense economic problems: the labor force would either have to be replaced—a practical impossibility—or a wage labor market immediately established; the bank system would have to provide a window of time for the land owners to obtain cash for crops, to pay down debt, and the freed Africans would need immediate education, while pressure would soon begin mounting that they become citizens of the political communities in which they lived and their majorities would threaten to take control of Government. Just an impossible situation to deal with overnight.



Now, the "wokes" and the "liberals" and the kids can weep and wail and rail about the reality of this. They can deface eiffigies of R.E. Lee, they can cancel his memory in their minds, they can blame him for the failure of the human race to alter its nature and ignore the stark differences between ethnic groups. They can pretend the human race is infused more with love than hate. But, they cannot change human nature, they cannot change the fact that men act in their self-interest, that the paramount principle of human nature is self-preseveration, preserving one's way of life, maintaining the solidary which membership in an ethnic group provides. They cannot, in the end, hide from the fact that the human race exists within the process of evolution, a process that proceeds, to our minds, with a glacial pace. but it does proceed and the ice does melt.

President Buchanan went on, in his December 1860 address, "It may be asked, then, Are the people of the States without redress against the oppression of the Federal Government? By no means. The right of resistance on the part of the governed against the oppression of their governments cannot be denied. It exists independantly of all constitutions. It is embodied in strong and express language in our own Declaration of Independence. But the distinction must not be ignored that this is revolution against an established government, and not a voluntary secession from it by virtue of an inherent constitutional right."

Joe Ryan comments:

James Madison, who wrote the Constitution, would not entirely agree with Buchanan's view of the matter. In The Federalist Papers (No. 33), Madison wrote: "On what principle can the Constitution be superseded without the unaniimous consent of the parties to it? The question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.

Perhaps, too, an answer may be found within the principles of the compact itself. A compact between independant sovereigns, founded on ordinary acts of legislative authority can pretend to no higher validity than a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are mutually conditions of each other; that a breach of any one article is a breach of the whole treaty; and that a breach, committed by either of the parties, absolves the others, and authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact violated and void.

Whichever language one uses, it is one of those cases which must be left to provide for itself."

In end, Madison says, "the parties on one side might exercise moderation while the parties on the other side might exercise prudence."

Note: Madison qualifies the application of the concept of secession, to the political situation were the basis of its application is "ordinary acts of legislative authorty." But, the Constitution was not made operative on the basis of the legislatures of the States consenting. It was made operative on the basis of the people of the States ratifiying it, which is not an "ordinary act of legislative authority." Nonetheless, Madison was hiding the ball; as he drafted it, the Constitution became operative when nine of the thirteen "States" ratified it. It became operative, however, only as to them. Which means that, despite the fact the Articles of Confederation expressly state that the Union and Government they formed could not be changed unless the States were unanimous in their consent, four States were left alone in the Union of the Articles as the nine seceded from it without the specified unanimous consent. At that point, the four had the option of attacking the nine, to coerce them to return to the Union of the Articles, or, instead, to join them in the Union of the Constitution. Of course, had the four remained outside the Union of the Constitution, how long would it have been, before the nine attacked the four to coerce them in?

Bucanan continued: "Has the Constitution delegated power to Congress to coerce a State into submission. If the answer is 'Yes,' it must be on the basis that the Constitution grants power to Congress to make war on a State. But this power is not found expressly enumerated in Art. I, Sec. 8.

Suppose such a war would result in the conquest of a State: how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we hold it as a province and govern it by despotic power? If we possessed this power would it be wise for us to exercise it? War would vanish all hope of a peaceful reconstruction. A vast amount of blood and treasure would be expended. The fact is our Union can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in its hand to preserve it by force."

Joe Ryan comments:

Buchanan is objectively correct, here, and objectively wrong. He is correct, when he states the people did not grant power to Congress to wage war against a State in the Union. This conclusion is plain from the text of the Constitution which, in Art II, Sec. 9 reads, "No State shall, without the consent of Congress, enter into any compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit or delay." He is wrong, however, when he states Congress is without power to coerce a seceded State to return to the Union. Art. I, Sec 8, grants Congress the power to "Declare war" and to "raise and support armies." Given the plain language of the Constitution, when read as a whole and in light of the circumstances, the sovereign people of Virginia, by whichever of Madison's principles you wish to use, possessed the "right" to secede from the Union, and the Congress of the Union, in such circumstance, had the "right" to treat her as now a foreign power and to raise an army and use it to invade her territory and conquer her people and drag them back into the Union as its subjects.

At the bottom of the thing, of course, we come back to the problem of the Africans. The weeping kids, egged on by the Black Democrats all full of themselves with their political power, see it being the unwillingness of the white people of the South to live with the Africans as equals in their political communities, while those with their minds focused on the reality see it being the unwillingness of the white people of the North to offer the people of the South a helping hand: offer to accept the dispersal of the Africans throughout the entire territory of the Union; and economic help to deal with the obvious problem of the Southern economy collapsing as the dispersal occurs; how to replace the labor of the Africans, how to reorganize how the economy works, how to get the Africans educated fast, how to support them as they get to their feet and get going. Where, in the recorded history of the Congress of the United States, from its first session to its thirty-seventh, can you find one single speech made by one senator, or one representative, from a Northern state, raising these matters, confronting them, explaining them, offering a means of dealing with them?. Why? Because the whole white people of the Antebellum Union did not want to live with Africans as citizens in thier political communities. And this, and only this, was the cause of the war.


President Buchanan then suggested to his audience that an "explanatory amendment" to the Constitution be passed by the States which provided, first, an "express recognition of the right of property in Africans in the States where it now exists or may hereafter exist.;" second, that "a duty exists to protect this right in the Territories of the United States," and, third, that "the right of the master be recognized to have his runaway slaves delivered up."

Note: On March 4, 1861, President Lincoln sent to the States an amendment to the Constitution, proposed by the Republican-congtrolled Congress that, if ratified by the requiste number of States in the Union, would have made slavery perpetual in America. Before the war came Maryland, Ohio and Illinois had ratified it.

R.E. finished his December 14, 1860 letter to Custis with this: "Feeling the aggressions of the North, resenting their denial of the equal rights of our citizens to the common territory, I am not pleased with the course of the [Gulf] States. In addition to their selfish, dicatorial bearing, the threats they throw out against [Virginia], if she will not join them, argues little for the peace of Virginia should she determine to coalesce with them. While I wish to do what is right, I am unwilling to do what is wrong, either at the bidding of the South or of the North."

On January 23, 1861, from Comancheria, R.E. wrote Custis again. By this time five States had seceded from the Union. "The Constitution was intended for perpetual union, and for the establishment of a government which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in conventon assembled (Buchanan's position). It is idle to talk of secession. Still, a Union that can only be maintained by [war] has no charm for me. If the Union is dissolved, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and save in defense will draw my sword on none."

When the people of Virginia voted, by a supremajority, to secede from the Union, R.E. Lee had a simple choice: He could abandon the State where he was born, which for two hundred years had given his family its posterity, and remove his family from Arlington and take residence in Washington; or, he could go with his wife, Mary, to Paris and sit out the war on the boulevards; or, he could reduce his family to beggary, the Union confiscating its property, and lead the young white Americans of Virginia to Gettysburg.

The English major writes, in her Washington Post piece that, by his Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns, R.E. "broke his vow never to bear arms against the United States except in defense." Hardly is this silly statement true. The strategic purpose of both campaigns was purely defensive. In the case of the Antietam campaign, Lee's objective was to reach the Shenandoah Valley where he could refit his army, without being pressured by the enemy's pursuit. To achieve this objective, he moved to the Valley indirectly which induced the enemy to believe his army was still capable of offensive warfare, that his direction meant he intended to over against Washington, when the reality is, he crossed the Potomac with the plan of bringing the enemy to a general battle at Sharpsburg, a battle where he stood on the defensive and received the enemy's attack. As for Gettysburg, R.E.'s objective was to get the enemy army as far away from Richmond as he could induce it to go, and then cause the two armies to collide in a battle that would wreck the organization of the enemy's, putting it on the defensive for eight months.

The English major writes that R.E. "owned enslaved people." R.E. Lee did, in fact, "own" a woman named Nancy and her children. He inherited them from his mother, in 1820, and they were recorded as his property in a will he filed in court in 1846, as he went with General Scott's army to invade Mexico. R.E. also "owned" an interest in the labor of two other Africans in later years; These men were apparently part of his mother's estate and lived and worked on her brother's James River plantation. It appears her brother sent R.E. $50 a year for some ten years as his share of the value of the men's labor. R.E.'s legal interest in the labor of the men did not extend to a right to sell them, or to interfere with their living situation. In December 1862, R.E. filed a writ of manumission in court which contains the names of Nancy and all of the Africans held by the Custis estate.

The English major writes that R.E. "drove them hard, and he pursued and punished them when they escaped." There is no objective evidence in the record that R.E. Lee "drove" a slave "hard." The Africans R.E. "owned" did not function as his servants, nor did they live at Arlington Plantation.

In 1859, R.E. became the Executor of his father-in-law's, George Washington Custis's, estate which included as property about 800 Africans. In the course of his duty acting as such, several Africans refused to work, claiming that Custis had promised them they would be free upon his death. In his capacity as Executor, R.E. had the men seized and placed in the Fairfax County jail for several weeks; then he had them taken to the White House plantation on the Pamunkey River where they remained until he filed the manumission document in the Henrico County courthouse, in December 1862.

In the spring of 1859, three Africans, property of the Custis estate, left Arlington and went into Maryland. Several months later, they were arrested and returned to Arlington. It is claimed, without objective foundation in the record, that, upon their return, R.E. caused them to be whipped. In fact, R.E. caused them to be sent to the White House plantation, where they remained until he manumitted them in December 1862.

During this time, R.E., as Executor, filed a complaint in court seeking a declaration of Custis's intent with regard to the timing of manumission. The Estate's attorney, argued for an interpretation of the Will that, if adopted, would mean the Africans would not be manumitted until the monetary legacies Custis willed to R.E.'s daughters, be paid. The Court adopted the interpretation of the Will that Custis intended the Africans to be manumitted within five years of his death. With the final judgment of the courts in his hands, R.E., in December 1862, executed the writ of manumission. In the course of doing this, he gave a written pass to the African, who later claimed he had been whipped by Lee, and the African used it, in December 1862, to pass through the lines of the armies facing each other at Culpeper and went to Washington.

Joe Ryan