If any further evidence had been required to show that it was the determination of the Northern people not only to make no concessions to the grievances of the Southern States, but to increase them to the last extremity, it was furnished by the proclamation of President Lincoln, issued on April 15, 1861. This proclamation, which has already been mentioned, requires further examination, as it was the official declaration, on the part of the Government of the United States, of the war which ensued. In it the President called for seventy-five thousand men to suppress “combinations” opposed to the laws, and obstructing their execution in seven sovereign States which had retired from the Union. Seventy-five thousand men organized and equipped are a powerful army, and, when raised to operate against these States, nothing else than war could be intended. The words in which he summoned this force were these: “Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past, and now are, opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law: Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, by virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and laws,” etc.

The power granted in the Constitution is thus expressed: “The Congress shall have power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.”(A) It was to the Congress, not the Executive, to whom the power was delegated, and thus early was commenced a long series of usurpations of powers inconsistent with the purposes for which the Union was formed, and destructive of the fraternity it was designed to perpetuate.

On November 6, 1860, the Legislature of South Carolina assembled and gave the vote of the State for electors of a President of the United States. On the next day an act was passed calling a State Convention to assemble on December 17th, to determine the question of the withdrawal of the State from the United States. Candidates for membership were immediately nominated. All were in favor of secession. The Convention assembled on December 17th, and on the 20th passed “an ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America.’” The ordinance began with these words: “We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain,” etc. The State authorities immediately conformed to this action of the Convention, and the laws and authority of the United States ceased to be obeyed within the limits of the State. About four months afterward, when the State, in union with others which had joined her, had possessed herself of the forts within her limits, which the United States Government had refused to evacuate, President Lincoln issued the above mentioned proclamation.

The State of South Carolina is designated in the proclamation as a combination too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by law. This designation does not recognize the State, or manifest any consciousness of its existence, whereas South Carolina was one of the colonies that had declared her independence, and, after a long and bloody war, she had been recognized as a sovereign State by Great Britain, the only power to which she had ever owed allegiance. The fact that she had been one of the colonies in the original Congress, had been a member of the Confederation, and subsequently of the Union, strengthens, but surely can not impair, her claim to be a State. Though President Lincoln designated her as a “combination,” it did not make her a combination. Though he refused to recognize her as a State, it did not make her any less a State. By assertion, he attempted to annihilate seven States; and the war which followed was to enforce the revolutionary edict, and to establish the supremacy of the General Government on the ruins of the blood-bought independence of the States.

By designating the State as a “combination,” and considering that under such a name it might be in a condition of insurrection, he assumed to have authority to raise a great military force and attack the State. Yet, even if the fact had been as assumed, if an insurrection had existed, the President could not lawfully have derived the power he exercised from such condition of affairs. The provision of the Constitution is as follows: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and, on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature can not be convened), against domestic violence.” So the guarantee availed not at all to justify the act which it was presented to excuse—the fact being that a State, and not an “unlawful combination,” as asserted, was the object of assault, and the case one of making war. For a State or union of States to attack with military force another State, is to make war. By the Constitution, the power to make war is given solely to Congress. “Congress shall have power to declare war,” says the Constitution. And, again, “to raise and support armies.” Thus, under a perverted use of language, the Executive at Washington did that which he undeniably had no power to do, under a faithful observance of the Constitution.

To justify himself to Congress and the people, or, rather, before the face of mankind, for this evasion of the Constitution of his country, President Lincoln, in his message to Congress, of July 4, 1861, resorted to the artifice of saying, “It [meaning the proceedings of the Confederate States] presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy—a government of the people by the same people—can, or can not, maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes?”

The answer to this question is very plain. In the nature of things, no union can be formed except by separate, independent, and distinct parties. Any other combination is not a union; and, upon the destruction of any of these elements in the parties, the union ipso facto ceases. If the Government is the result of a union of States, then these States must be separate, sovereign, and distinct, to be able to form a union, which is entirely an act of their own volition. Such a government as ours had no power to maintain its existence any longer than the contracting parties pleased to cohere, because it was founded on the great principle of voluntary federation, and organized “to establish justice and insure domestic tranquility.” Any departure from this principle by the General Government not only perverts and destroys its nature, but furnishes a just cause to the injured State to withdraw from the union. A new union might subsequently be formed, but the original one could never by coercion be restored. Any effort on the part of the others to force the seceding State to consent to come back is an attempt at subjugation. It is a wrong which no lapse of time or combination of circumstances can ever make right. A forced union is a political absurdity. No less absurd is President Lincoln’s effort to dissever the sovereignty of the people from that of the State; as if there could be a State with a people, or a sovereign people without a State.

But the question which Mr. Lincoln presents “to the whole family of man” deserves a further notice. The answer which he seems to infer would be given “by the whole family of man” is that such a government as he supposed “can maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes.” And, therefore, he concluded that he was right in the judgment of “the whole family of man” in commencing hostilities against us. He says, “So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government.” That is the power to make war against foreign nations, for the Government has no other war power. Planting himself on this position, he commenced the devastation and bloodshed which followed to effect our subjugation.

Nothing could be more erroneous than such views. The supposed case which he presents is entirely unlike the real case. The Government of the United States is like no other government. It is neither a “constitutional republic or democracy,” nor has it ever been thus called. Neither is it a “government of the people by the same people”; but it is known and designated as “the Government of the United States.” It is an anomaly among governments. Its authority consists solely of certain powers delegated to it, as a common agent, by an association of sovereign and independent States. These powers are to be exercised only for certain specified objects; and the purposes, declared in the beginning of the deed or instrument of delegation, were “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

The beginning and the end of all the powers of the Government of the United States are to be found in that instrument of delegation. All its powers are there expressed, defined, and limited. It was only to that instrument Mr. Lincoln as President should have gone to learn his duties. That was the chart which he had just solemnly pledged himself to the country faithfully to follow. He soon deviated widely from it— and fatally erroneous was his course. The administration of the affairs of a great people, at a most perilous period, is decided by the answer which it is assumed “the whole family of man” would give to a supposed condition of human affairs which did not exist and which could not exist. This is the ground upon which the rectitude of his cause was placed. He says, “No choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government, and so to resist force employed for its destruction by for its preservation.”

“Here,” he says, “no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government.” For what purpose must he call out this war power? He answers, by saying, “and so to resist force employed for its destruction by force for its preservation.” But this which he asserts is not a fact. There were no “force employed for its destruction.” Let the reader turn to the record of the facts in Part III of this work, and peruse the fruitless efforts for peace which were made by us, and which Mr. Lincoln did not deign to notice. The assertion is not only incorrect, in stating that force was employed by us, but also in declaring that it was for the destruction of the Government of the United States. On the contrary, we wished to leave it alone. Our separation did not involve its destruction. To such fiction was Mr. Lincoln compelled to resort to give even apparent justice to his cause. He now goes to the Constitution for the exercise of his war power, and here we have another fiction.

On April 19th, four days later, President Lincoln issued another proclamation, announcing a blockade of the ports of seven confederated States, which was afterward extended to North Carolina and Virginia. It further declared that all persons who should under the authority molest any vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board, should be treated as pirates. In their efforts to subjugate us, the destruction of our commerce was regarded by the authorities at Washington as a most efficient measure. It was early seen that, although acts of Congress established ports of entry where commerce existed, they might be repealed, and the ports nominally closed or declared to be closed; yet such a declaration would be of no avail unless sustained by a naval force, as these ports were located in territory not subject to the United States. Am act was subsequently passed authorizing the President of the United States, in his discretion, to close our ports, but it was never executed.

The scheme of blockade was resorted to, and a falsehood was asserted on which to base it. Mr. Seward writes to Mr. Dallas: “You will say (to Lord John Russell) that, by our own laws and the laws of nature and the laws of nations, this Government has a clear right to suppress insurrection. An exclusion of commerce from national ports which have been seized by insurgents, in the equitable form of blockade, is a proper means to that end.” This is the same doctrine of “combinations” fabricated by the authorities at Washington to serve as the basis of a bloody revolution. Under the laws of nations, separate governments when at war blockade each other’s ports. This is decided to be justifiable. But the Government of the United States could not consent to justify its blockade of our ports on this ground, as it would be an admission that the Confederate States were a separate and distinct sovereignty, and that the war was prosecuted only for subjugation. It, therefore, assumed that the withdrawal of the Southern States from the Union was an insurrection.

Was it an insurrection? When certain sovereign and independent States form a union with limited powers for some general purposes, and any one or more of them, in the progress of time, suffer unjust and oppressive grievances for which there is no redress but in a withdrawal from the association, is such withdrawal an insurrection? If so, then of what advantage is a compact of union to States? Within the Union are oppressions and grievances; and the attempt to go out brings war and subjugation. The ambitious and aggressive States obtain possession of the central authority which, having grown strong in the lapse of time, asserts its entire sovereignty over the States. Whichever of them denies it and seeks to retire, is declared to be guilty of insurrection, its citizens are stigmatized as “rebels,” as if they had revolted against a master, and a war of subjugation is begun. If this action is once tolerated, where will it end? Where is the value of constitutional liberty? What strength is there in bills of rights—in limitations of power? What new hope for mankind is to be found in written constitutions, what remedy which did not exist under kings or emperors? If the doctrines thus announced by the Government of the United States are conceded, then, look through either end of the political telescope, and one sees only an empire, and the once famous Declaration of Independence trodden in the dust as a “glittering generality,” and the compact of union denounced as a “flaunting lie.” Those who submit to such consequences without resistance are not worthy of the liberties and the rights to which they were born, and deserve to be made slaves. Such must be the verdict of mankind.

Men do not fight to make a fraternal union, neither do nations. These military preparations of the Government of the United States signified nothing less than the subjugation of the Southern States, so that, by one devasting blow, the North might grasp for ever that supremacy it had so long coveted.

To be prepared for self-defense, I called Congress together at Montgomery on April 29th, and, in the message of that date, thus spoke of the proclamation of the President of the United States: “Apparently contradictory as are the terms of this singular document, one point is unmistakably evident. The President of the United States calls for an army of seventy-five thousand men, whose first service is to be the capture of our forts. It is a plain declaration of war, which I am not at liberty to disregard, because of my knowledge that, under the Constitution of the United States, the President is usurping a power granted exclusively to Congress.”

I then proceeded to say that I did not feel at liberty to disregard the fact that many of the States seemed quite content to submit to the exercise of the powers assumed by the President of the United States, and were actively engaged in levying troops for the purpose indicated in the proclamation. Meantime, being deprived of the aid of Congress, I had been under the necessity of confining my action to a call on the States for volunteers for the common defense, in accordance with authority previously conferred on me. I stated that there were then in the field, at Charleston, Pensacola, Forts Morgan, Jackson, St. Philip, and Pulaski, nineteen thousand men, and sixteen thousand more were on their way to Virginia; that it was proposed to organize and hold in readiness for instant action, in view of the existing exigencies of the country, an army of one hundred thousand men; and that, if a further force should be needed, Congress would be appealed to for authority to call it into the field. Finally, that the intent of the President of the United States, already developed, to invade our soil, capture our forts, blockade our ports, and wage war against us, rendered it necessary to raise means to a much larger amount than had been done, to defray the expenses of maintaining independence and repelling invasion.

A brief summary of the internal affairs of the Government followed, and, notwithstanding frequent declarations of the peaceful intentions of the withdrawing States had been made in the most solemn manner, it was deemed not to be out of place to repeat them once more: and, therefore, the message closed with these words: “We protest solemnly, in the face of mankind, that we desire peace at any sacrifice, save that of honor. In independence we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we have lately been confederated. All we ask is to be let alone— that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This we will, we must, resist to the direst extremity. The moment that this pretension is abandoned, the sword will drop from our grasp, and we shall be ready to enter into treaties of amity and commerce that can not but be mutually beneficial. So long as this pretension is maintained, with a firm reliance on that Divine Power which covers with its protection the just cause, we must continue to struggle for our inherent right to freedom, independence, and self-government.”

At this session Congress passed acts authorizing the President to use the whole land and naval forces to meet the necessities of the war thus commenced; to issue to private armed vessels letters of marque; in addition to the volunteer force authorized to be raised, to accept the services of volunteers, to serve during the war; to receive into the service various companies of the different arms; to make a loan of fifty millions of dollars in bonds and notes; and to hold an election for officers of the permanent Government under the new Constitution. An act was also passed to provide revenue from imports; another, relative to prisoners of war; and such others as were necessary to complete the internal organization of the Government, and establish the administration of public affairs.

In every portion of the country there was exhibited the most patriotic devotion to the common cause. Transportation companies freely tendered the use of their lines for troops and supplies. Requisitions for troops were met with such alacrity that the number offering their services in every instance greatly exceeded the demand and the ability to arm them. Men of the highest official and social position served as volunteers in the ranks. The gravity of age and the zeal of youth rivaled each other in the desire to be foremost in the public defense.

The appearance of the proclamation of the President of the United States, calling out seventy-five thousand men, was followed by the immediate withdrawal of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and their union with the Confederate States. The former State, thus placed on the frontier and exposed to invasion, began to prepare for a resolute defense. Volunteers were ordered to be enrolled and held in readiness in every part “of the State. Colonel Robert E. Lee, having resigned his commission in the United States cavalry, was on April 22nd nominated and confirmed by the State Convention of Virginia as ” Commander-in-Chief of the military and naval forces of the Commonwealth.”

Already the Northern officer in charge had evacuated Harper’s Ferry, after having attempted to destroy the public buildings there. His report says: “I gave the order to apply the torch. In three minutes or less, both of the arsenal buildings, containing nearly fifteen thousand stand of arms, together with the carpenter’s shop, which was at the upper end of a long and connected series of workshops of the armory proper, were in a blaze. There is every reason for believing the destruction was complete.” Mr. Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War, on April 22d replied to this report in these words : “I am directed by the President of the United States to communicate to you, and through you to the officers and men under your command at Harper’s Ferry Armory, the approbation of the Government of your and their judicious conduct there, and to tender you and them the thanks of the Government for the same.” At the same time the ship-yard at Norfolk was abandoned after an attempt to destroy it. About midnight of April 20th, a fire was started in the yard, which continued to increase, and before daylight the work of destruction extended to two immense shiphouses, one of which contained the entire frame of a seventy four-gun ship, and to the long ranges of stores and offices on each side of the entrance. The great ship Pennsylvania was burned, and the frigates Herrimac and Columbus, and the Delaware, Karitan, Plymouth, and Germantown were sunk. A vast amount of machinery, valuable engines, small-arms, and chronometers, was broken up and rendered entirely useless. The value of the property destroyed was estimated at several millions of dollars.

This property thus destroyed had been accumulated and constructed with laborious care and skillful ingenuity during a course of years to fulfill one of the objects of the Constitution, which was expressed in these words, “To provide for the common defense” (see Preamble of the Constitution). It had belonged to all the States in common, and to each one equally with the others. If the Confederate States were still members of the Union, as the President of the United States asserted, where can he find a justification of these acts?

In explanation of his policy to the Commissioners sent to him by the Virginia State Convention, he said, referring to his inaugural address, “As I then and therein said, I now repeat, the power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belonging to the Government.” Yet he tendered the thanks of the Government to those who applied the torch to destroy this property belonging, as he regarded it, to the Government.

How unreasonable, how blind with rage must have been that administration of affairs which so quickly brought the Government to the necessity of destroying its own means of defense in order, as it publicly declared, “to maintain its life”! It would seem as if the passions that rule the savage had taken possession of the authorities at the United States capital! In the conflagrations of vast structures, the wanton destruction of public property, and still more in the issue of lettres de cachet by the Secretary of State, who boasted of the power of his little bell over the personal liberties of the citizen, the people saw, or might have seen, the rapid strides toward despotism made under the mask of preserving the Union. Yet these and similar measures were tolerated because the sectional hate dominated in the Northern States over the higher motives of constitutional and moral obligation.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was a soldier, statesman, author, and President of the Confederate States of America from 1861-1865. Born in Kentucky, he served as a Representative and United States Senator from Mississippi and as Secretary of War in the Franklin Pierce administration.


  • Paul Yarbrough says:

    Brilliant words from the past. And today observe the wicked, despicable, ill-informed mental midgets. And that’s just the Republicans (and their toilet, Fox News).

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    Why won’t this site allow a link?

    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      There is a great interview at facebook…tri.state expo…Brother Jack Cowart and myself being interviewed by Juneteenth folks…history being made…but for some reason Abbeville will not allow a link to be put in the comments section. It is from 31 May…it is one hour and 2 minutes long. History, discussion workshop, conversation with the Confederacy.

      • dogface says:

        I found it. Thanks. Not a fan of all these new holidays but the hosts were nice people.

        • William Quinton Platt III says:

          I’d be for eliminating mlk and replacing it with Juneteenth. We don’t need a holiday for a communist.

          I am glad you took the effort to find the interview. They’re interested in truth…no one should fear it.

  • Billy P says:

    No better condemnation of Abraham Lincoln and his tyrannical ways has ever been stated.

  • Zack Magnusson says:

    What is the source and date of this article? Is it from his book or something else?

  • Zack Magnusson says:

    Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Part IV, Chapter IV.

  • David Yelle says:

    Unless I’m missing it somewhere, can someone tell me where this passage came from? Something Jefferson Davis wrote during or possibly after the War?

  • Tom Jestus says:

    Can you supply the missing part of paragraph eight. It starts somewhere in the middle!

  • Robert Caffery Sr says:

    Ironic that the so-called Civil War was about slavery after all…enslaving the Confederate South to the Federal North!

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