Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Road to Seccession

On December 1-5, 2010, a symposium "The Road to Secession" symposium was held at Camp Gilmont in Upshur County, Texas.  The event was presented by the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

The presentations featured the following topics and speakers:

  • "Reasons for the War,"  H.G. Manning, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Retired) and former Commander, Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • "Indian Territory and the Confederate Alliance," Dr. Les Tucker
  • "Essay on the Events Which Forced the South to Secede from the Union," Roger M. Young, Lt James Woodward Camp 1399, S.C.V. Warner Robins, GA
  • "Religion and the Road to Secession," Elizabeth Young
  • "Robert E. Lee, the Tragic Secessionist," Scott Bowden
  • "Secession: Did The Compact Of 1787 Allow States The Right To Secede? Was Lincoln Right When He Argued to Congress That the States Were Never Free, Sovereign, Independent Entities?" David E. Pierson, P.E., Colonel (ret.) USAFR
  • "The Irrepressible Conflict In the words of John H. Reagan," Gary Williams
Mark Vogel outlined the conferences intent in his openning remarks:

"The Road to Secession" was organized to demonstrate that secession from the Union had many different causes. The papers presented in this Proceedings, and the speakers who addressed the symposium approached the national crisis from a wide array of perspectives. It was the original aspiration of this conference to offer at least one paper addressing each of the southern states and territories and identify the issues, personalities, and chronology which shaped the eventual decision on secession in each state. It is posed here, that were someone to look across the states individually, it would become apparent that there were many different causes for secession."

This was not a conference that intended to look at Northern and Southern perspectives on the roots of the war. The papers offer a decidely Southern bias and place the blame for the war on the north, Lincoln, and the radical Republicans. With that understanding, the papers present a interesting analysis of the causes of the Civil War.

H. G. Manning's paper, "Reasons for the War," offers two causes: "First, is the unfair levying of tariffs against the South combined with an ‘unequal’ distribution of those funds in the development of the nation. In short, funds were used predominantly for internal projects within the northern States of the Union. Today, we refer to these as ‘redistribution of funds’ and this is a continuing socialist legacy resulting from the South losing the war. The second cause for the South leaving the Union is the radical change of power in Washington’s City resulting from the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the success of the radical republicans in the elections of 1860. In the early history of the country, the South may not have held control of the Legislative branch of the federal government, but this was often countered by retaining the Executive Branch. In 1860, the Southern States were appalled at the loss of both branches of the federal government combined with the rants and physical attacks of the radical fringe of the Republican Party – the abolitionists."

Roger Young's "Essay on the Events Which Forced the South to Secede from the Union" concludes that the "South seceded because of unfair Federal taxation, other States control of destiny, other States interference in economic development, other states control of banking institutions, and other states and Federal Government control of infrastructure development."

Elizabeth Young's "Religion and the Road to Secession" states that: "When the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist denominations split, shock waves rolled over the country. Politicians, such as South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun and Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, realized that religious division would have political consequences, wondering how long North and South could share political union when they no longer worshiped in the same Christian churches."

Secession: Did The Compact Of 1787 Allow States The Right To Secede?" David Pierson argues that the Compact of 1787 provided such a right.  He quotes Jefferson,  "...whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force; that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party; that this government, created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself...each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress."  Pierson presents an impressive collection of opinions that support a state's right to secede.

"The Irrepressible Conflict in the Words of John H. Reagan," presents arguments made by Reagan, an Anderson County, Texas judge in a series of debates in 1857. According to John H. Reagan’s memoirs published in 1906, he believes the foremost cause of secession and war was slavery. He clearly states his views and history of slavery in the United States. He was certain that the institution of slavery had legal status under the Constitution prior to the War Between the States. Reagan portrays the North as deadly hostile to the rights, property and citizens of the South
The proceedings make interesting reading and present arguments that go beyond the usual "states rights" issues.  Please contact the Texas Divison of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for more information.

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