American Republic of the Southern States: A Patriotic Education

Governments may be divided into three classes, each different in formation and operation. Of these, Monarchy is that in which all power is reposed in the hands of one man, whose rights are absolute, and whose prerogatives are unlimited. Aristocracy is that in which all power is centered in the hands of a few men, or chiefs, whose prerogatives are conjointly absolute and unlimited, as those of a monarch, the difference being that, in this government, the power is divided between several rulers, while, in that, it is confined to one sovereign. Democracy is that in which the people are sovereign, and in which the functions of government are administered, for the people, through chosen representatives, or agents.

It is not unfrequently the case that Monarchies are modified in such a manner as to combine with them some of the elements of Aristocracies and Democracies, and vice versa, both Aristocracies and Democracies may adopt some of the features of Monarchies.

In this dissertation we have to deal with that form of government in which the people are sovereign — the Democracy. And it may be remarked en passant that the further this class of government is removed from a condition of purity, under which all of the people are equal and in the enjoyment of the same rights and privileges, the better chance there exists for the security of life, liberty and property to all, and for stability and prosperity; for men are, except under the influence of high, mental and moral education, apt to tend towards a savage state, and must be restrained and checked by some well regulated government, or they become agrarians and levellers, and work in a pure Democracy injury to themselves and their fellow-creatures.

This was fully appreciated by the founders of the American Republic, for while it was evident that the genius of the people of the United States was such as would not submit to the strong rule of a monarchial form of government, and that they were adapted, by the possession of virtue, courage and intelligence, for the mild rule of Democracy, they felt the necessity of establishing wise safe-guards, against a tendency towards mobocracy, through a written Constitution, in which the rights of the people, as a whole, were held in check by the rights of the individual States composing the general Federal Government, and these in turn were checked by other balances. Besides, the elective franchise was guarded, and that manner of holding elections regulated so wisely as to block any tendency towards evil in either direction, preventing alike Centralization and Monarchy, or too great an extension of popular power.

Above all, the sections of country, divided by natural causes, and apt in the course of time to become alienated through conflicting interests, were so excellently and judiciously restrained and poised, the one against the other that it was thought that the heat of party dissention and sectional prejudice would be unlikely to disturb the nicely adjusted rights and privileges of all parties to the compact of government. Certainly nothing appears in the proceedings of the Convention, which was held for the purpose of framing the government, to justify an assumption that there was an intention that there should ever occur, under any circumstances, an emergency in which one of the sections, or any number of the States, should have a right to assume entire control over the other, or any one of the States. On the contrary it seems clear to us, from an unprejudiced view of the whole ground, that provision was intended to be made, for the separation of any section, or State, when the ends for which the government was formed were no longer subserved; and, indeed, any other assumption would be incompatible with the idea of Democracy, the chief and fundamental principle of which is, that the just powers of Republican government are derived from and conveyed by the people, the right of acquisition by conquest being forbidden by the very nature of the government established; and, besides, it is repugnant to all notions of morality, politics, and business, that a partner to certain benefits may be deprived of all control and voice in the direction of his conjoint interests by a combination of other partners, however strong their influence and great their power. The majority may rule, but they cannot deprive the minority of a voice, however insignificant and powerless that minority may be; nor can that minority be prevented from selling out its interest at pleasure; nor does the fact that the minority withdraw from any participation in the control of their conjoint interests, yield their rights for the time, or aver their determination to do so forever, justify the majority in refusing a voice and participation when they claim that voice and participation. No law would be so manifestly unjust as to authorize such a proceeding. Therefore, whether the States of the South had a right to secede from the Federal Union or not, common sense would teach that as long as the government continued to exist under its original charter, founded on republican principles, those States which remained in the Union would acquire no right to control those States which withdrew, or claim for Congress, the legislative power of the government, a right to refuse to them a participation, so far as their power and strength would permit, in the control of the affairs and concerns of the confederated whole. And that which common sense teaches is borne out by the established provisions of the Constitution. The States of the South cannot be held subject to the will of the North. No power is vested in Congress by the Constitution to reduce sovereign States to a territorial condition, and in addition to this, the Constitution distinctly provides (Sec. 4, Art. I. V.) that, “THE UNITED STATES SHALL GUARANTEE TO EVERY STATE IN THIS UNION A REPUBLICAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT.”

Then, if the United States is a republic, as we have shown it can acquire no rights by conquest, as such acquisition would be in antagonism with the genius of the principles upon which it is founded; if it, therefore, exercises over the South no control, save that which, the whole of the States being represented, is necessary to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty; if, as a consequence, it cannot deprive the Southern States of their existence as sovereign States; and if the Constitution provides the guarantee that all the States shall have a republican form of government, how can the Congress of the country, except by an acknowledgement of illegality and usurpation, and by claiming the right only because it has the might, assume to destroy the State Governments of the South. Having destroyed those governments, how can it assume to demand that the people of those States shall submit their new Constitution to it for ratification, and further assume extra Constitutional jurisdiction, by providing how and under what circumstances that new Constitution shall be formed? Does such a course of action assimilate most to the action of a republican Legislature, or to the edict of a Monarch to his leige subjects, or the proclamation of a few petty princes for the rule of their Aristocracy.

Congress, nevertheless, claims by its action that it has the right to govern the Southern States without any participation, on their part, in its deliberations, and goes still further, in direct and willful violation of the Constitution, by imposing taxes without admitting the territory, for which it legislates, to the right of representation. Some of its members take the position that the States, by withdrawing from the Union, committed political suicide, destroyed their right to representation and participation in the government, although they failed to destroy the rights of the government over them and their people and territory, the attempt to secede having failed, and the right of secession being denied. Others claim that the Southern States did, actually and effectually, withdraw from the Union; that they absolved themselves from all duty and responsibility, as well as forsook their privileges and rights, they having achieved for themselves rights, under international law, as belligerents, and claim that, through the victory of the North, a right by conquest was acquired. They claim, further, that the South now holds the same relation to the Federal Government, that existed between California and the other acquisitions, the result of the victory of the American arms in the war with Mexico; and that the annexation of the States of the South to the Federal Union must proceed upon the same principle as that of that territory. Besides, this, they hold that Congress is invested with entire right to determine the best policy to be pursued in regard to their internal government, as it is invested in its right of government over all other territory belonging to the United States.

Neither of these parties are right. Both are in open, conscious, and intelligent violation of the Constitution of the country. Congress, therefore, so long as it adheres to the line of policy marked out, is de facto revolutionary body. It, thereby, tramples the fundamental law of the land under foot. It violently assails the doctrine of Republican government. It forgets its oath of office and commits the basest of all perjuries. It is an illegal substitute for that legislative power provided by the Constitution. Instead of a representative body reflecting the wishes of the people Congress has become to be converted from a republican institution into an unauthorized plebian aristocracy. The men who sustain it dare not discharge its members, for they, from being servants, have grown to be masters of the destiny of America. With unlimited power, assumed in the confidence that the madness of the populace will sustain its most desperate and intemperate action, Congress has converted all the functions of the government to its own uses, and the aggrandizement of its own ends; and has become, instead of a means of advancing the interest of the country, a vast and powerful engine of wrong and oppression, used for embarrassing the producing classes, for hindering prosperity, and for keeping the masters of the country — the people — in subjection to the will of the servants — the legislators.

The majority of the Northern people, however, sustain this body in its fanatical course, and rejoice while the fetters are being forged for their own limbs. They applaud, with shouts of merriment, the preparations that are being made to sacrifice the South, a victim to hellish hate, little recking that their turn comes next. They gloat in their desire for vengeance over the cruel torture that is being applied, forgetting that it will serve but as a precedent for the persecution that will be inflicted at no distant day on themselves. So far as the majority of the Northern people can contribute to that end, the machinations of Congress, looking to the substitution of an absolute despotism in this country for Republicanism, will succeed.

There are, however, despite all these combinations, certain indications that a complete ruin will not fall upon the country. At the North there are thousands of good, conservative men, who, although in minority, have not abated their patriotism, nor lost their hope; who are zealous lovers of liberty, and whose souls are full of valor and determination. They are freemen, they are intelligent, they know their rights, they perceive the tendency of the legislation of Congress, they appreciate the necessity of the preservation of republican government in America, they know that all hope for that preservation lies in the South, and they will assist to sustain the South in all measures for the preservation of freedom.

The people of the South are united, as one man, in their opposition to the threatening policy of Congress. They have felt the influence of that life giving power, freedom. They cannot be made slaves through ignorance, they cannot be held in subjection to tyranny. At the right time, if the President of the United States stands firm in his purpose to protect the Constitution, the check of the march of despotism and fanaticism will be given by these forces combined. They will drive the usurpers from their seats of power. They will restore the Constitution of our country. They will preserve free institutions to America.

There can be no reasonable doubt of the result. Already the Southern people have given evidence of their capacity as soldiers. With the North united against them, many of their own people against them, no organized government to commence with, no army, no navy, no resources, nothing to coalesce them but a principle, and on that thousands refusing to stand, they kept up an uneven contest for independence, for four years, with a valor unexampled, a fortitude unparalleled, and a determination unexcelled. In this approaching conflict, for conflict there will be if Congress attempts to destroy the States, they will have nearly half of the North as allies and will be themselves united. There will be no room for compromise after the first blow. There can be no divisions of sentiment on the side of Conservatism and Freedom and Union. The Conservatives will be animated by the most powerful considerations. They will fight, to the knife, and then to the hilt.

We think that the American people will not submit to a conversion of their government from republicanism to monarchy. The one man power, or despotism, and the rule of petty princes, especially of plebian blood, such as Congress has already become, is not suited to the genius of our people. They will not tolerate it.

Congress had better count the obstacles in its way to success. It had better meditate upon the consequences of a further progress in the career, which its unwise leaders have chalked out. Those who advise to intemperance and fanaticism are unsafe guides;

“They do not know how pride can stoop,
When baffled feelings withering droop;
They do not know how hate can burn
In hearts once changed from soft to stern,
And all the false and fatal zeal
The convert of revenge can feel.”

They do not know the temper of the Northern minority. They do not appreciate the condition of the Southern mind, or they would pause, consider, advise Congress to consider, and once more learn to respect the flag of the Union and the Constitution of the American Republic.

-Excerpt courtesy of The Library of Congress, Chronicling America, The Daily Dispatch, Wilmington, North Carolina, December 18, 1866. Images courtesy of The Library of Congress and

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