By Boyd Cathey on This article was originally printed in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of Confederate Veteran Magazine.)
In June 2015, after the depraved shootings in a Charleston, South Carolina, black church, a frenzied hue and cry went up and any number of accusations and attacks were made against historic Confederate symbols, in particular, the Confederate Battle Flag. Monuments, markers, flags, plaques, street and school names, everything memorializing anything associated with the Confederacy have come under severe attack. Even grave sites and cemeteries have not been exempt from this onslaught. It is, as one writer wrote, “a new Reconstruction,” and, in fact, an attempt to eradicate the very existence of Confederate heritage.
Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s a question for the reader: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?” [my emphasis added]
“Do we not all know that the cause of our casualties is the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States, cooperating with the discontents of the people of those states? Do we not know that the disregard of the Constitution, and of the security that it affords to the rights of States and of individuals, has been the cause of the calamity which our country is called to undergo?”
“The States…are distinct separate sovereignties, except so far as they have parted with some of the attributes of sovereignty by the Constitution. They continue to be nations, with all their rights, and under all their national obligations, and with all the rights of nations in every particular; except in the surrender by each to the common purposes and object of the Union, under the Constitution. The rights of each State, when not so yielded up, remain absolute.”
One last comment regarding the accusation of “treason”: after the conclusion of the War, the Southern states were put under military authority, their civil governments dissolved, and each state had to be re-admitted to the Union. But, logically, a state could not be “re-admitted” to the Union unless it had been out of it. And if it were out of it, legally and constitutionally, as the Southern states maintained (and some Northern writers acknowledged), then it could not be in any way guilty of “treason.”