Monday, February 8, 2016

The "Catholic South" and the Right to Secede

A review of Catholic author Adam S. Miller's The North & the South and Secession, the first of his four-book series on the Civil War from a traditional Catholic historical perspective.

Surprisingly, a large part of the cultural difference between North and South came from the fact that the Catholic influence on society and culture had a greater impact on the South.  Although the North had more Catholics, those in the South tended to be in greater positions of influence.   Southern society was structured in a way that reflected the old European Catholic hierarchical and patriarchal world view. "Southerners in general had a deep respect for their European heritage and the social/cultural traditions which came from there, whether or not they knew that this heritage, culturally speaking, had been born and developed as a result of the Catholic Church."  (p. 9.)

Southern Catholics completely supported the Southern cause, as did every one of their Catholic bishops.  Correspondence between Pope Pius IX and Jefferson Davis shows that the Pope acknowledged Davis as President of the Confederate States of America, and "implies that he favored the South during the Civil War and recognized values in the South that were not common in the progressive-industrialized world, like the American North." (p.11.)


Miller's smallish but logically tight book dispels the myths that the war was fought over slavery and that Lincoln was justified in invading the South. This book clearly proves that the South had every legal right to secede from the Union, since secession was not prohibited in the Constitution. Further, slavery was also legal according to that same Constitution. It was economic oppression of the South, due to unjust and excessive tariffs imposed by the Northern states via the Federal government, that ultimately forced the South to secede. The South carried the vast majority of the taxation burden, and thus provided most of the Federal revenue.

It is a fact that when the conflict began the Union had more slave states than the Confederacy! The commanding General for the North, U.S. Grant, made use of slaves, and said that if the war had been fought to free the slaves, he would have turned in his sword (p. 73). Lincoln went to war "to apply the erroneous belief that the federal government was sovereign over the states" (p. 75). The true insurrectionists were the Northerners who rebelled against the founding concept that the federal government was simply an agent for the free sovereign states.

Miller provides page after page of proof that the initial concept of a Federal government under the Constitution was derived from the consent of the founding states, and it was not to be their ruler as a powerful central government.  The creator was the assemblage of sovereign states, and their creature was the Federal government.  But the North, led by Lincoln, reversed this paradigm so that the creature would dominate the creator, and do so by force of arms.

Consider this analogy as to what occurred during the Civil War, although Miller does not mention it:  suppose Germany were to pull out of the European Union, and the other member states said it was not allowed, and they invaded that country militarily to keep her in that Union against her will.

This book is quite a revelation, and I plan read to the subsequent three books in Miller's series on the Civil War.  The updated editions are best obtained from his website http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/tower7






25 comments:

  1. "There is something we all know which can only be rendered, in an appropriate language, as realpolitik. As a matter of fact, it is an almost insanely unreal politik. It is always stubbornly and stupidly repeating that men fight for material ends, without reflecting for a moment that the material ends are hardly ever material to the men who fight. In any case no man will die for practical politics, just as no man will die for pay. Nero could not hire a hundred Christians to be eaten by lions at a shilling an hour, for men will not be martyred for money. But the vision called up by real politik, or realistic politics, is beyond example crazy and incredible. Does anybody in the world believe that a soldier says, 'My leg is nearly dropping off, but I shall go on till it drops; for after all I shall enjoy all the advantages of my government obtaining a warm water port in the Gulf of Finland! Can anybody suppose that a clerk turned conscript says, 'If I am gassed I shall probably die in torments; but it is a comfort to reflect that should I ever decide to become a pearl-diver in the South Seas, that career is now open to me and my countrymen! Materialist history is the most madly incredible of all histories, or even of all romances. Whatever starts wars, the thing that sustains wars is something in the soul; that is something akin to religion." -- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

    Don't make the mistake of replacing one proposed economic cause for the war (slavery) with another (tariffs). The union fell apart for the same reason many marriages fall apart: a growing mutual distrust, followed by a sequence of reactions that gave weight to that distrust. The details don't really matter that much: distrust is fatal to any voluntary union, and it was the prospect of being forced into an INVOLUNTARY union that made secession imperative.

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  2. EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE BILLS OF SUCCESSION REFERENCED SLAVERY.

    EACH AND EVERY ONE, WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

    To claim that there was any other reason is to try and "whitewash" the issue.

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    1. It has always been the case that the rich and powerful tend to start wars to enhance their own wealth, power, and sometimes prestige -- reasons that rarely justify war. That was true for both sides in 1861, and it is true today; don't try to tell me that the reason the US is so much more "concerned" about human rights in the Middle East than in Africa has nothing to do with oil. But as Chesterton points out, the foot soldier who will face the real risk and suffering must have more serious reasons than the interests of their "betters". Dick Cheney's interest in Iraq may have been the value of Halliburton stock, but a PFC patrolling Fallujah would not express concern for the vice president's portfolio. A proper understanding of history has to address both the motives of the presidents and prime ministers and also the motives of the privates and sergeants.

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    2. It is 'Secession' and not 'Succession'. And they were not 'bills' but rather ordinances. Further, not all such ordinances from the seceding states included reasons related to the right to keep slaves. Certainly this was not the case for the mid-south states, which definitively rejected secession on those grounds and provided different explanations for leaving the union. Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, and North Carolina departed from the union only after Lincoln resupplied Fort Sumter and pledged to raise an army of 75,000, while Congress was not in session, with the express purpose of invading other states.

      While some of the states in the Deep South articulated that they were leaving the union because they feared the dissolution of slave rights, the union government did not attempt to impose any anti-slavery legislation at all. In fact, northern officials continued to assert that they would not interfere with slavery where it already existed. Further, Lincoln was perfectly willing to accept the “state’s right to slavery” in the slave states that remained in the union (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri).

      So, please tell me again how it was all about slavery?

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    3. Notwithstanding the fact that some slave states mentioned slavery in their secession ordinances, this pronouncement was not as universal as is commonly believed. For instance, the secession ordinances of Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee do not mention slavery or the slave motive at all. Arkansas’ secession ordinance suggests the primary reason it announced its withdrawal from the union was Lincoln’s proclamation “to the world that war should be waged against such States until they should be compelled to submit to their rule.”

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  3. Thank you for the "Politically Correct" version.

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    1. Thank you for posting this entry,Frank.
      3 cheers for Dixie.

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  4. Read South Carolinas statement of secession...featuring slavery as a major reason. Perhaps because of misinformING media such as your article, the grass roots southerners were (and are) invincibly ignorant, but the official records show it was about slavery.

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  5. Interesting perspective, not all of which is completely factual. Leaving aside slavery, which I assume all will agree is immoral, the central (and only) question that concerned Lincoln was the question of whether the union was a permanent fact once entered into, the constitution being essentially silent on the subject. The Civil War settled the matter. In any event, secession was not an imperative but a preemptive action by the southern states.

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    1. The only thing that the Civil War settled was that might does indeed make right. It established a version of democracy based on the tyrannical vision of an elected king. Prior to those horrific years resulting in millions of American lives lost (our fathers, brothers and sons. Is it anyone's surprise that Grant drank himself to death?), secession was an assumed right based on the precedent laid down by the Union's own founding generation through the example of their own struggle against the monarch of Great Britain. Following this world-shaking event in human history, the continuing arguments in favor of secession were most strongly made by denizens of the North prior to 1861, cf. Senator Timothy Pickering, et al. The civil war established the fact that a Jeffersonian ideal of democracy was to be hung upon the cross and left to die in favor of a Lincolnian version whose consequences have been far reaching and felt even to this day convincing millions of citizens in these United States that we are akin to the Eagles' Hotel California where one can check out any time they like but who can never leave. Yep. One giant 'blob' of Amuricah. 'Love it or leave it!' and so forth.

      Despite this erroneous assumption, the Texas constitution still proudly asserts that she is a 'free and independent state...', cf. TX Constitution, Article I, Section 1. God bless Texas.

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  6. While slavery as an institution was a motivating factor, the overarching premis was the right of the states to self govern. The author is correct on that point. As for the detractors who so desperately wish the war of northern agression to have been born of righteous anger, factual history proves otherwise. So, how has that whole centralized government worked?
    Disclaimer: Born and raised in the great state of South Carolina, family goes back to the late 1600s. And Catholic. And a strident supporter of the 10th amendment to the constitution.

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    1. Captain Morgan's point is made quite clear in Albert Taylor Bledsoe's masterful defense of secession in his work, "Is Davis A Traitor: Or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War". The arguments contained within have yet to be disproved. I highly recommend this work to all citizens of their respective states in the Union.
      Disclaimer: Born and raised a Tejano (Texan of hispanic descent). My ancestor, Captain Joseph Rafael De La Garza was a Confederate soldier whose family owned not one slave. His letters can be read in this collection, "Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri" by Jerry Thompson.

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  7. Oh! I see! And being "pro-choice" really has nothing to do with abortion at all, you see; it's really only about the question of womens' rights to control their own bodies.

    Balderdash! Piffle! Stuff and nonsense! Surprised any Catholic would sit still for it.

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  8. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free [from the imposition of unjust and excessive tariffs],
    While God is marching on.

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  9. As an historian by training and avocation, a few notes and corrections on the above in no particular order. The constitution was a successor to the Articles of Confederation which were found too weak to provide concerted action by the country in times of necessity. After this, it was assumed one country made up of individual states with their own functions. The rights of individual states were essentially abrogated with the election of 1932 and subsequent elections and decisions by the US Supreme Court. There is a view that this abrogation started in 1834 by Andrew Jackson but it is not widely accepted. Hence, the continuing battle in the court over original intent. The moral( as opposed to legal) question of secession was open. Consequently, Beauregard fought for the South and Sheridan for the Federals, both good Catholics. Texas is a unique situation as it entered the union with several provisos not extended to other states. This is because Texas was a country, not a territory of the US before admission. Some of these provisions are still argued about today and if ever asserted by the Texas legislature would probably be resolved in the US Supreme Court. Jefferson Davis was not a traitor. He properly resigned his federal offices and the question had not yet been resolved. Small note: Grant smoked himself to death from cancer of the jaw, probably caused by his ever present cigar. While he had a reputation as a drinker, no one ever saw him in a state we would call drunk. Finally, the war was about slavery only because the south made it about slavery. Whether contained in the secession ordinances or not, it was everywhere else and it was the unhidden 600 lb bear in the room. Lincoln was opposed only to expansion of slavery where it not already existed and to the Fugitive Slave Act. When South Carolina fired on Ft Sumter, it was an act of war or rebellion, as the case may be, as acknowledged by everyone at the precedent of John Brown's raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. My comments are not intended to dispute anyone's views of the matter; just bring out some historical facts in context.

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  10. There are many issues with your response the first being the assumption concerning the Articles of Confederation.

    "The constitution was a successor to the Articles of Confederation which were found too weak to provide concerted action by the country in times of necessity."

    A disputed point by some including yours truly. After all, it was strong enough to carry the 13 colonies through a difficult war with the most powerful European kingdom on earth, Great Britain. The Union suffering under massive debt following the revolutionary war was finding it difficult to pay back what it owed to France and others. Therefore, in order to better facilitate the collection of money, delegates from each country were gathered to deliberate on improvements to the Articles of CONFEDERATION first in Annapolis then in Philadelphia. What began as an amendment process to the current form of government degenerated into a convention working largely in secret to usurp the current form in order to give us a more centralized form of a government with the power to tax, i.e. theft. “There was no president, no executive agencies, no judiciary and no tax base. The absence of a tax base meant that there was no way to pay off state and national debts from the war years except by requesting money from the states, which seldom arrived.”

    In the words of Patrick Henry of Virgina, “The Confederation, this despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium--it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses--and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government. Take longer time in reckoning things; revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe; similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome- -instances of the people losing their liberty by their own carelessness and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned . . . against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against. I acknowledge, also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it. Yet there is another thing it will as effectually do- -it will oppress and ruin the people.”

    And this last part, it had most certainly done especially in these latter days and in an accelerated manner ever since the North subjugated the South in 1865. FDR was merely an inheritor of what was begun by Lincoln. We should not be so easy to forgive this and let continue this abrogation of state and local control. To put it in Catholic terms, it would go against the principles of subsidiarity.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. The forces of South Carolina fired upon Ft. Sumter in an attempt to forcibly evict an unwanted tenant.

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    1. That was the South's mistake.(among many others)
      At that time,Ft.Sumter was CSA,not the USA.The South was kicking out a foreign entity.
      Had they waited and built up negotiations and relations with other major foreign countries,the War may have had a different outcome.
      Also,the CSA should've taken Stonewall Jackson's advice and waged urban guerilla warfare upon the North (just like the North did during the march to the Sea) after the first Bull Run.

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  13. As I stated before, I simply present the facts and point out what was opinion at the time. Everyone is free to draw their own conclusions except on the morality of slavery which is an objective wrong. Moralists are free to speculate whether war was an appropriate means to correct this wrong.

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  14. Rarely mentioned are the black and Indian Southerners who owned slaves.
    Nor are the white slaves in both north & south hardly mentioned by historians. (In the popular mainstream history books)
    3 Cheers for Dixie

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  15. For those who mentioned that in the ordinances of secession by (only) some of the Southern States whereby slavery was listed as one of the reasons for separation, well, of course. However, to point this out and think that this alone explains the nature of the ultimate cause is to fail to see the forest (fundamental cause) through the trees (individual issues). This also is an example, as point out in the book, of the failure to distinguish between cause and occasion (p.85). The two are different. This is why an application of Catholic principles was needed for this conflict. My work focused primarily on the objective reality and nature of the causes of the conflict, not necessarily what some leaders may have stated. As also made clear in the book (see Chap.4; also p. 90 and Appendix IV) particular issues such as slavery, threats from abolitionists and certain Northern leaders over slavery, unconstitutional tariffs and taxes that were not uniform throughout the States as required by the Constitution, Federal encroachment, etc. were occasions for the conflict. What certain State leaders declared as part of their reasons for secession are examples of occasions. But, applying the principles of the Natural Law and the Catholic teaching on authority, when examining the over-all conflict one cannot but see the fundamental cause/issue was that of political authority and where it truly resides in the United States AS founded, AS established and constituted. This is why the name of this country is the united STATES of America, not the United STATE of America. The discipline of philosophy, which helps one to recognize and distinguish the difference between cause and occasion in historical conflicts, is an aid that would greatly benefit historians.

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  16. I just want to point out that the above comment is from the author of the book we are discussing. Thank you Adam.

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